Tuesday, May 31, 2011

What-A-Weekend!


Other than a window of a few hours on Saturday morning it was a pretty grey and rainy Memorial Day weekend.  So, no camping, but lots of fun and lots of productivity around the house. 

We went birding Saturday morning (during the sunshine) though I cannot locate the photos for that.  Oh well, I will just summarize it by saying we saw lots of birds and were a tad awestruck by the flooding and high waters.  We also watched Search-and-Rescue folks practicing in the very fast and full Yellowstone River.  They jumped in, floated a while, and then swam back to shore.  The last part looked like A LOT of work.  It was pretty crazy and impressive to behold.  We overheard the lead fellow telling the others that if they got near the log jam on the bridge pilings they were as good as dead and there wouldn't be anything any of them could do to save them.  Makes one want to leap in, doesn't it?  No, really, I am so glad they train in order to save the lives of others.   Crazy, crazy stuff.

We went home and it had started to rain.  We took that as the perfect opportunity to clean and organize about the house.  When the basement flooded and we had to haul a bunch of junk upstairs we read it as a sign that we needed to pare down some items that hadn't seen use in years, but that were still kicking around down there.  Like a bicycle that had been dissected for parts.  Or a broken metal chair frame that we always hoped we'd find another use for, but didn't.  Or three golf bags.  Or boxes and manuals for electronics and kitchen gear that we don't even own any more.  That sort of thing.  After the basement it was craft supplies and kitchen cupboards and the back closet...and well, my house hasn't looked this tidy and organized in a while!  I feel lighter.  It makes me ever so happy.  Possibly more than it should.  Oh well, one should appreciate the simple pleasures.  We also hauled off a carload of recycling.

Matt worked on tie-dye each day of the long weekend.  We will be entering the craft vending season this very weekend and are still trying to get our inventory up.  We have so much tie-dye it is almost madness.  It started my day with a chuckle to come out of the bedroom and find Matt in the kitchen with his rubber gloves and giant headphones on listening to my new ipod which we was carrying around in a fanny pack since his sweatpants had no pockets.  I had to laugh.  It was QUITE the look.  (and now I've posted it for all the world to see)  Matt does amazing tie-dye work.  I am pretty good, but he is the real master behind the business.  He claims it is the only art form he has ever been good at. 

Sunday Matt made cinnamon rolls, something I hadn't had in literally years.  The perfect start to a rainy day.   The crazy part was that he used the no-knead bread dough, just rolled very thin and brushed with melted butter and cinnamon before rolling and cutting.  I'd have never even though to try that.  Sometimes he blows my mind with what he comes up with in the kitchen...
After breakfast, we were not in the mood to be cooped up inside a moment longer--rain or no rain-- so we went out.  We went out the the Pictograph Caves State Park, a favorite birding location as well as neat historical site.  Lots of birds out in the rain, as we figured they would be.  Surprisingly quite a few humans out in the rain too, as we did not figure there would be.  Apparently we weren't the only ones to say "The heck with this rain, let's go!" 
Pictograph Cave.
These Northern Flickers were up to something.  From what I can determine it is a mating ritual.  They stood near each other lifting their bills like this and bobbing the head side to side. 
Then they would cartwheel through the air with each other, land, and do the whole thing over again.  I see flickers all the time, but I'd never seen them do this before.
Spotted Towhee
Mountain Bluebird.  They never cease to take my breath away with their loveliness.
I love the texture in this grass...
Sunday night we barbecued for the first time of the season.  Actually we don't really grill much in any season, but Matt was so satisfied by this experience that he vows it will be a regular thing this year.  Mostly I think he is quite keen on the idea of cooking outside rather than heating up the house in the summertime.  He is always hot (and I am always cold...go figure) so that idea really calls to him.  I told him that many people (indigenous cultures, Hutterite colonies, homesteaders, etc) have used or still use "summer kitchens" to help keep things bearable in the heat of summer.  So, let grilling season begin.
Yams, Potato, Tofu, Garlic, Onion, Mushroom marinated in olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and spices.

They turned out even more delicious and easy than I thought they would.
At some point over the weekend we also fried up some corn tortillas that we had left over from Lisa's visit.  Best. Chips. Ever.  A salty, greasy awesomely wonderful mid-afternoon snack.

We visited Matt's parents for dinner last night.  We made them a chunky version of the Simply Lovely Carrot Soup, only with corn and potatoes added in.  And of course, served with freshly baked bread.  It was a good visit as it always in.  I learn something new (Sharon can say the family prayer in German!) and laugh a lot.  They are a good family and I am lucky to have hitched myself to them.

Then Matt and I finished off the weekend with a game of Scrabble (Matt won) and listening to 40's music at home. 

While listening to the 40's channel they played a lovely version of The Star Spangled Banner and then asked for a moment of silence, something I'd been waiting for all day.  It seemed to me that too many Americans were just excited for a long weekend and not much attention was being paid to the reason.  Memorial Day.  The day to pause and reflect on all the sacrifices and sorrows of war.  A day to celebrate our patriotism and our soldiers.  Matt and I reflected on the soldiers we know and the stories they had told us of war, which were fairly limited as we soon realized most of the soldiers we knew didn't like to talk about it.  Who could blame them?  Ah, war...it is a big complex thing to think about.  However there is nothing complex about this:  Heartfelt thanks to all those who have served and blessedly made it back to us alive: Terry, Uncle Steve, Uncle David, Cody, Jesse, Grandpa and all the others.  I cannot imagine all you've seen and done and while I wish there was no need for soldiers I am so ever grateful for your commitment and love of country and freedom.  And still more thanks to all those who paid the ultimate price and never made it back to their families.  I uttered a silent little prayer, which I'll repeat now, for world peace and for the hope that our global leaders can find the wisdom to develop diplomatic ways to bridge cultures and resolve conflicts and bring greater love and harmony to this world.  I can always hope.  I WILL always hope.

Whew!  And THAT was my long weekend. 

Friday, May 27, 2011

Simply Lovely Carrot Soup

I think I am going to come up with a good adjective or two for all my recipes from now on.  "Simply Lovely Carrot Soup," has a lot nicer ring to it than merely "Carrot Soup," or even "Simple Carrot Soup."  I recall reading something about this in Mindless Eating by Brain Wansink--that one can influence the perception of how good food tastes merely by describing the dish with a few choice adjectives.     Its like marketing only you are in charge and you are marketing healthy food!   That said, I did not name the Simply Lovely Carrot Soup.  This is my take on another recipe I tried out from my awesome new-to-me cookbook, How it all Vegan.  I modified the recipe a tiny bit, but kept the swell name.

I think that all soups are better the next day and this one was certainly no exception.  The day-after taste is so familiar to me, but I cannot put my finger on it.  It tastes like something I remember from childhood.....

Simply Lovely Carrot Soup
1 small onion, chopped
6-8 large carrots, chopped but unpeeled!
4 C veggie stock
1 t salt
1 C soy milk
1 t dried dill or 1 T fresh dill 
1 T soy sauce
1 t black pepper

In a large pot, saute the onions and carrots in oil over medium heat until the onions are translucent.  Add stock and salt and simmer over medium for about 15 minutes, until carrots are tender.  Remove veggies and blend in a blender with milk, dill, soy sauce, and pepper until smooth.  Add a small amount of cooking broth if needed to achieve desired smoothness.  You may need to do this step in multiple batches depending on the size of your blender.  You can also opt to only blend half the veggies for a chunky-style soup.  Return the mixture to the pot and serve immediately.
I must say it goes really well with no-knead bread.

Meet my Friend Green Man!

So I have this friend named Green Man.  Okay, maybe that is his clever superhero alias, but he is my real-life friend.
Green Man and his wife are some of the most down-to-earth, smart, funny and ecological people I've had the pleasure to meet. They also make beautiful music that they write themselves.
 
In many ways I can see in them what I hope Matt and I will be down the road.  The are an inspiration to me and through their non-profit Museco, many others. 
They have been my go-to for ecological lifestyle questions on many occasions and always answer thoughtfully and thoroughly. 

I love that they have a humorous take on being more eco-savvy.  So often the environmental movement is pegged as one that is a downer or all serious.  That is understandable since ecological crisis is serious business.  Still if we are painted only as martyrs suffering and sacrificing for our cause I somehow doubt it will grab the necessary people. 

I don't feel my lifestyle is a sacrifice.  I feel is it a joy to be so aware and connected to my natural surroundings.  To be doing my part to live in greater harmony with this amazing planet.  I feel that I am the lucky one.  I can see that same joy in the Green Man videos as well.  You can tell the Green Man and his family are not suffering, but celebrating.  I think that is an important message in the environmental movement.  One that we don't hear often enough. 

Thursday, May 26, 2011

On My Mind....Camping!



August 2010 - West Boulder Meadows.

On my mind today is camping, or a possible lack there of. 
July 2010.
August 2010 - West Boulder Meadows.
Memorial Day is the "official" start of camping season around here.  With a long weekend ahead and the winter fading to memory behind it seems to be the perfect time to hit the trails and explore the countryside.  I want to run down the dirt trails.  I want to watch the wildlife.  I want to lay under the stars in the sky so black.  I want to have a sing-a-long beside the campfire.  I want to hear the streams rush by as I drift off to sleep.  In short, I really long to go for camp out.  
July 2010.  My first wild bear sighting.
From out first visit to the Big Horn Canyon in August 2008.
August 2010 - West Boulder Meadows.
Oh, but this rain, rain, rain this week!
Playing Travel Scrabble in the tent during a rain storm.  August 2010 - West Boulder Meadows.
Adam and Matt laughing, singing and playing - July 2010.
August 2010 - West Boulder Meadows.
Matt and I had plans to take the weekend up near Big Timber, but now it is looking like we might stay home instead, much to my disappointment.   Nah, that isn't quite right.  If the weather is crummy I won't be too disappointed really.  I mean, I don't want to spend a weekend trapped in my tent by the rain or risk traveling potentially flooded roads just to camp.  If the time isn't right there is no need to force the issue.  As I recently mentioned, Mother Nature is in charge here and I will go with her bidding.  We are watching the weather and road reports and what is meant to be will be. 
August 2010 - West Boulder Meadows.
August 2010 - West Boulder Meadows.
Matty is a fantastic camp chef.  August 2010 - West Boulder Meadows.
If we end up staying at home I am sure we will compensate with day-trips to nearby state parks and recreation areas for bird watching and hiking.  Even if we get completely drenched to the bone it is no bother when you have a warm house and dry clothes to return to. 
July 2010.
August 2010 - West Boulder Meadows.
July 2010.
No matter what I am sure we will enjoy ourselves wherever we end up...we pretty much always do.  Life is what you make of it.
August 2010 - West Boulder Meadows.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Picnic in the Park and Yet More Rain

On Sunday night the rain let up for long enough that Matt and I decided to take a walk. 
We made it about a block before deciding to return home, pack a picnic dinner, and go to the park to enjoy the sunset.


We have to enjoy the sunshine when we can since we are, apparently, trying to set some all-time record for rain in Montana this year.
I spent the whole walk trying to avoid stepping on worms.  I've never seen so many worms in one place! I suppose their homes are the first to flood them out.
We found a dry enough spot under a gloriously blossoming crab apple tree. 
The bees were buzzing.  One was so large that at first glance I mistook it for a bird!   The sun was sinking low.  The food was simple, but good.  It was quiet and smelled of rain.
I  think picnicking is swell.  Especially in the summer it is so wonderful to eat and relax in the fresh air.  I just got my little picnic basket a month ago or so from Matt's Aunt Verna.  I see even more picnics in our future now that I have such an adorable basket to put everything in!
The blue sky made a brief, but welcomed, appearance.
 We walked back to the park last night to see how swollen the stream was from yesterday's record breaking 3.12 inches of rain.  Sadly, the gloriously pink blossoms on the trees had taken quite a beating, making me all the more grateful to have enjoyed Sunday evening beneath them.  The stream had been well over its bank and was still threatening to overflow at the culvert near the end. 
We ended up with water in the basement yesterday for the first time ever since we moved in four years ago.  What a mess....at least it is unfinished and has a floor drain.  The library also has water coming in to the basement level in many places. 
The pines were in standing water on the lawn of the library.
This is a "stream" running by the west side of the library yesterday.
The Crow Reservation is under a state of emergency and more than half of Montana counties are experiencing flooding in some scale.  My boss and I were talking yesterday as we watched the rain pouring down and water creeping up over the basement windowsills about how "in control" we like to think we are as humans.  In the end, nature is really running the show and we are only trying to hold on.  I think floods and the news stories of recent tornadoes and earth quakes are proof enough of that.
Usually the water is drained through some bars into a culvert underneath where Matt is standing.