Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Kaying Kenai Fjords, Day 2

This is the second part of my series on our Kayaking trip in Kenai Fjords National Park last summer, with Kayak Adventures Worldwide. See Part 1 here.

On the second day of our trip, we spent the whole day on the water in the kayaks.We woke up and had a leisurely breakfast, then headed out into the lagoon to explore the glaciers. It's hard to get a sense of scale in our photos from this trip, because everything is just so massive in Alaska. The glaciers in the picture at the top of this post, however, are still several miles away from us.They're the same glaciers you see in the closer-up pictures below.

In front of Ogive Glacier
Josh and I paddled a tandem kayak, as do all guests on KAW trips, and I was perfectly happy with this. It's easier, for one, to have someone to share the paddling. Plus, tandem kayaks are very stable, which is important when you're literally paddling in ice water. Our guides talked to us about what to do in case we tipped, but the water was calm, and I was never worried about it.

Weather in the Fjords is wildly changeable, as it is in any marine environment like this. You can have perfect sunshine and blue skies, or you can have pouring rain and whipping winds. We got a little good, a little not-so-good on our trip, but we could not have asked for better weather on Day 2-- bluebird skies, and warm enough that I got away with just an ultra-light base layer for most of the day.  The outfitter provided pogies for our hands, which are neoprene mitts that velcro around the paddle to keep your hands warm, but we didn't need them much this day, and my thick fleece and rain layers stayed safely tucked inside a dry bag.

Over the course of the day, we got up close to the the multiple tidewater glaciers that feed into Northwestern Lagoon. A tidewater glacier is one that flows directly into the water (vs. being up on a mountaintop somewhere). What is really amazing about tidewater glaciers is watching them calve. Glaciers are in constant flux. When the pressure of gravity and melting gets to be too much, pieces at the foot of glaciers break off and, in the case of tidewater glaciers, come crashing down into the ocean. These pieces can be massive -- the size of houses -- so you need to keep your distance, so as not to be swamped by the resulting wave when a piece comes crashing down. The absolute closest you would want to get to one of these glaciers is about a quarter of a mile, and more often, you'll stay back a third or even a half a mile, depending on the height of the glacier and other factors. Our guides with KAW were very well-versed in safety issues, and kept us at a respectable distance. We felt small swells when large pieces of glacier came crashing down, but nothing that made me nervous at all.

Watching glaciers calve is up there among the coolest experiences of my life. I think I tend to feel like the ground we stand on is pretty stable and slow-changing, but seeing something like this, it really strikes you just how changeable our world is.I was also really fascinated to hear our guide, Dave, talk about where the glacier had come out to in the lagoon when he first started guiding 10+ years ago, compared to where it's at now. It's shocking how much the glaciers have retreated in that time, and it really brings the abstract idea of global warming home. (I felt the same thing, by the way, when we drove out to Exit Glacier in Seward after our kayaking trip. There, you drive along the road and pass signs marking where the glacier was 10 years ago, 30 years ago, 100 years ago, etc. It kind of blew my mind.)

We also had the cool experience of paddling through ice fields in the water. As the glaciers calve into the ocean, they break apart into both icebergs and smaller bits of slush. The water temperature is so cold that this ice doesn't melt right away. In the photo below, the ice we were paddling through is relatively dispersed , but we also paddled through much thicker patches of slush. You can see a bit of that thicker slush in the background of the iceberg picture below. As you move thorough the slush, it crackles and hisses like something alive. It's like nothing I've ever heard.

There were larger icebergs in the water, too. Looking at them reminded me a bit of looking for shapes in the clouds -- That one's shaped like a dragon! And there's a sea horse! It was a little disconcerting when the kayak bumped up against them, though. We weren't really going fast enough to do any damage, but it was hard to keep thoughts of the Titanic out of my head in those moments. Sadly, when we were going through the icebergs, there was some cloud cover above, so most of my pictures are a bit dark.

I didn't manage to get any pictures of them, but there were also tons of seals in the water around us. They'd occasionally pop up their heads to check us out, and we also paddled past large groups of them hauled out on ice floes. Our guides had us give these groups pretty wide berth. Not only is it law that you mustn't harass the wild life, but it was also molting season, I believe. Though the seals are built for icy water, when they're molting they're apparently more susceptible to it, so you don't want to startle them and make them dive into the water unnecessarily. 

Overall, we paddled several miles on Day 2, though it didn't feel like it. We wound our way through icebergs and sat for hours in front of three different calving glaciers. Josh practically had to be dragged kicking and screaming away from them at the end of the day. What an amazing day!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Farm Box: April 18, 2012

River Dog Farm Box: April 18, 2012

This weeks' box had:

Asparagus -- A huge bunch, some fairly fat, other stalks pencil-thin.
Beets -- Teeny tiny red ones with super-vibrant greens
Spring Onions -- Basically, an XL version of the green onions you get at the grocery store
Braising Greens
Bok Choi -- I have to admit, I am not a huge bok choi fan. I don't hate it, but it's also not a go-to green for me. We will gladly eat several bunches of kale in a week, but bok choi has a tendency to yellow and wither before I get around to using it.
Bunch of orange carrots
A few loose yellow carrots
golden turnips

And here's what we made with it. Farm box ingredients are in bold.

Nicoise Salad (sorry for the awful cell phone pic!)
Wednesday -- Sort-of-Nicoise salad. Mixed salad greens from the farmer's market, topped with seared ahi tuna, hard boiled eggs, olives, steamed asparagus (green beans are traditional in a nicoise salad, but asparagus is what we had), and boiled potatoes. The dressing was a generous amount of dijon mustard, olive oil, a touch of white wine vinegar, green garlic, and salt/pepper.

Thursday -- Salad again, this time topping the greens with steamed asparagus, olives, and poached eggs. I had a late soccer game, and needed something super-quick. Poached eggs are often my go-to in this situation, since you can make them in 5-minutes flat and they seem much fancier than they are.

Friday -- Soba noodles with sesame sauce. I stir-fried some chicken marinated in soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic, and rice vinegar. Steamed some bok choi, spinach, and carrots. Boiled soba noodles. All tossed together with a sauce made of tahini, rice vinegar, soy sauce, green garlic, and sesame oil based on a recipe from Mark Bittman. garnished with a generous handful of chopped cilantro and thinly sliced spring onions.

Saturday -- Hamburgers on the grill, with grilled asparagus, carrots, and radicchio (an impulse purchase at Whole Foods). After the carrots came off the grill, I tossed them with cilantro, lime juice, and salt.

Sunday -- Chicken and Rice. This is one of our go-to meals, because you can make it in endless variations. This version used green garlic, spinach, bok choi, spring onions, and some braising greens. The sauce used green garlic, shallots, whole-grain mustard, capers, white wine, veggie broth, butter, and a bit of flour to thicken it.

Monday -- We had baked sausages, potatoes, and broccoli for dinner. Didn't use a thing from the farm box because Josh was really in the mood for broccoli and so he bought a bag from Trader Joes.

Tuesday --Roasted Veggie salad. Mixed greens from the farmer's market with a mustard-spring onion dressing. Topped with roasted beets, turnips, carrots, and garlic, blue cheese crumbles, and a couple poached eggs.

So, at the end of the week, we still have: half a bunch of cilantro, the beet greens, half a bunch of carrots, half a bag of braising greens, and one head of bok choi, Hmm . . . we didn't do so well on using up everything this week. Tonight's dinner, whatever it is, needs to use lots and lots of greens :-)

Monday, April 23, 2012

Sea Kayaking: Alaska, Day 1

In honor of National Parks Week (and Earth Day), I'm finally getting around to posting about our big trip to Alaska last summer. We spent 2.5 weeks up there at the end of August and the beginning of September, doing a kayaking trip in Kenai Fjords National Park and a backpacking trip in Wrangell St. Elias National Park.

Morning sky over Resurrection Bay
We started our trip with 4 days of sea-kayaking in Kenai Fjords National Park. The Kenai Fjords lie at the edge of the Kenai Peninsula, about a three hour drive south of Anchorage, and the big draw there is the glaciers -- more than 40 flow from the massive Harding Ice Field down toward the ocean. You can drive to and hike around some of the glaciers, like Exit Glacier, but the best way to see this park is to get out on the water. Most trips start from Seward, and go out through Resurrection Bay and into the smaller bays and lagoons nearby, including Aialik Bay, Cataract Cove, and Northwestern Lagoon.

Unless you're a very experienced sea kayaker, you can't rent kayaks to do your own trip. We went with an outfitter, Kayak Adventures Worldwide, and it was absolutely the right move -- the conditions in the fjords can be unpredictable and even dangerous, and it was reassuring to be with folks who knew the area inside and out. We had two guides on our trip: Dave, the company owner, and Jamie, an experienced guide he was training to lead this particular trip. Both were warm, enthusiastic, and super-knowledgeable.This company works hard to be environmentally aware, and to educate as well as lead fun trips. The night before our trip, we had an orientation meeting, in which we talked about gear and safety, got set with PFDs (hardcore life jackets), spray skirts, etc, and chatted with the guides about what we hoped to see (me: Orcas, Orcas, and did I mention orcas?! Someone went to Sea World a few times too many as an impressionable kid :-)

Aialik Glacier. Notice the bits of ice floating in the bay.
 J. had done a trip with KAW a few years ago, to Aialik Bay.  This time, we went to Northwestern Lagoon, which is farther out in the Fjords. Josh thought both trips were wonderful, but I'm glad we went to Northwestern. Since Aialik is a shorter boat trip from Seward, it's where  most kayaking and tour boat trips go. Crowded isn't quite the right word, but you're certainly not alone . Northwestern, on the other hand, is spectacularly isolated. We were out for four days and didn't see another kayaker.

View from the water taxi, heading into Cataract Cove
Our trip began with a water taxi ride out to Northwestern lagoon. Getting out to the lagoon took about 4 hours o, but that was with stops to look at wildlife (Humpbacks! Puffins! Otters!) and drop off other kayakers in a different location.The boat captain knew so much about the area, and was sure to point out all the sights. We even slowed down at one point to allow Dall's Porpoises to frolic in the wake of the boat, while we laid flat out on the ramp at the back of the boat, mere inches from where they surfaced out of the the water. Dall's Porpoises are a type of porpoise that looks a lot like a miniature orca, and apparently they love playing around slow-moving boats. Unfortunately, the little guys moved so fast I wasn't able to get a good picture of them.

Kayaks pulled up on the beach in Northwestern Lagoon
The water taxi dropped us off at a beach where we would camp for the first two nights of our trip. In the shadow of several glaciers, our camp was stunningly beautiful.  Perhaps the most gorgeous place I've ever camped, though there are some places in the high Sierra that give this site a run for it's money.

Campsite on Northwestern Lagoon
All night, we could hear the crack and thunder of glaciers giving way and tumbling down toward the water. Usually, by the time we looked, we couldn't even see the slide that had made the sound, though. Out in the bay, seals glided by, occasionally popping their heads up to check us out. We called them the spy seals, and as soon as we spotted them, they'd quickly slip back under the water.

Walking across moraine to the foot of a glacier.
  On the first afternoon, after being dropped off by the water taxi, we did a short paddle out to the end of the lagoon, where we could hike to the foot of a glacier. For those of you not up on the geology, a glacier forms when the melting of snow and ice (called ablation) is less than the accumulation over a long period of time (centuries, even). Glaciers are made up of densely impacted ice, which gives them their often turquoise color -- that's the only spectrum of light that can get through the ice.

 Glaciers are not stationary objects. They move, due to the slope of the surface and the pressure of snow and ice above. Sometimes from a distance a glacier will look almost like a river -- you can actually see the pattern of the flow. In addition, glaciers retreat over time, or grow smaller, a process that is rapidly accelerating in the modern world, thanks to global warming. As glaciers move, they pick up gravel and huge boulders from the earth beneath them. This gravel is left in the wake of glaciers as they retreat, in the form a moraine -- gravel and boulders. That's what we're walking across in the photo above.

Nose of the glacier, up close
Although from a distance it had looked like the edge of the ice came right down to the moraine, once we were close, we could see that it was, instead, a high cliff.  Notice the hiker to the left side of the frame, for scale.
After our short exploration, we came back to camp, made dinner, and had a relaxing first evening. This was the view from our first campsite at twilight. Even in late August, and fairly far south in Alaska, darkness comes late, and twilight seems to linger forever.This picture was taken at probably10:30pm.

 The following day, we paddled out into the lagoon and got up close and personal with some calving glaciers. More on that soon!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Farm Box: 4/11/12

This week's box had:

Fennel  I love fresh fennel. The subtle anise taste is just lovely in so many dishes, and it pairs perfectly with leeks.

Asparagus. Nice fat stalks -- perfect for grilling!

Tangerines. I love that we get citrus fruit in the box all winter, but honestly, I'm always getting tired of it by this point in the year. Bring on the strawberries!

Green Garlic. I love green garlic, but whew! It makes my car REEK just in the 5 minutes it takes me to get it home from our farm box pick-up location. 

Leeks. These were ridiculously huge leeks, bigger around than my wrist.  Too big, actually. I think they're better when they're smaller and more tender.

Carrots. Tried something new with the carrots this week -- grilling. I peeled them, and cut the ends off, then rubbed them with a bit of olive oil and salt. Grilled for 15-20 minutes, then tossed with lemon juice and a bit of chopped up fennel fronds. SO good!

Savoy Spinach. 

Lettuce. This lettuce was delicious -- so sweet!  It made for wonderful side salads for lunch most of last week. 

We're starting to get into the real spring crops now, which I always look forward to. I can't wait for the English peas, which are my all-time favorite!  And here's what we did with all this lovely produce:

Wednesday: Baked sausages and potatoes, with our homemade sauerkraut, made from cabbages we got in early winter farm boxes. Since it takes a few weeks to ferment, we make big batches all at once -- 10 or more lbs of cabbage, and then it keeps forever in the fridge.

Thursday: Ate a burrito on my way home from my whitewater kayak rolling class.Not exactly healthy or useful for using up farm box stuff, but it was 9:30 at night and I was starving!

Friday: Ate out at our favorite neighborhood place, Sidebar. If you're in the Oakland area, go there! We usually sit at the bar and share a huge bowl of mussels, a chopped salad, and a couple glasses of wine. They also make a stunningly good burger, with house-made pickled cukes and onions.

Saturday: Grilled tri-tip, with grilled asparagus (made with the same recipe I posted last week), grilled carrots, and potatoes. For the potatoes, I cut them into large chunks, then boil them till they're just starting to get tender. Then, I toss with chili powder, harissa, olive oil, and salt and we finish them on the grill.If you don't pre-cook them, they take forever on the grill!

Sunday: Spring green risotto. Made with shitake mushrooms from the farmer's market, fennel, leeks, and spinach. I meant to add green garlic, too, but I forgot. Usually, we use our homemade chicken stock for risotto. This time, we were out, so I used mushroom flavored Better than Bullion. I can't recommend that particular flavor, though -- it's SO salty.

Monday: Meatloaf patties made with leftover tri-tip whirred in the food processor with bread crumbs and a bunch of other stuff that I don't know -- J. made them! On the side -- mashed potatoes and our homemade sauerkraut, again.

Tuesday: Fried rice. I had a bunch of odds-and-ends I wanted to use up, and fried rice is a really good way to do that. This version had leeks, green garlic, spinach, leftover baked tofu, and carrots.

We did good on the farm box this week -- all that carried over was a stalk of green garlic.  Much better than we did all winter, when I really struggled to use up winter squash, turnips, and parsnips!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Farm Box: April 4, 2012

Trying to get back to doing regular farm box updates. We've been doing the CSA for almost 16 months now, and it's been a huge success, for the most part (although almost all of our winter squashes moulded before we could use them).

Here's what was in this week's box, along with my plans for using it up:

Mixed Tangerines / mandarins. I cannot get enough of the Murcott tangerines -- that's the little shiny one on top of the stack. They're teeny tiny -- I can fit 2 or three of them in the palm of my hand easily -- and SO sweet. Almost like candy. Abundant citrus is one of the things I love about living in California. This week there were just a couple murcotts. I think the rest are another variety.

Green Onions.  These will end up used here and there throughout the week -- in scrambled eggs, sauces, as garnish for soups and baked potatoes, etc.

Parsley -- Planning to make Chimichurri sauce tonight, since I have cilantro left over from last week's box. We'll eat it on simple grilled chicken, served with wheatberries and grilled asparagus.

Carrots -- Our farm has the BEST carrots! This will probably become either carrot-miso soup, using this recipe from Smitten Kitchen or Carrot-Miso-Ginger salad dressing, like you get at Japanese restaurants. I absolutely ADORED that stuff as a kid, when we went to the local Benihana-type Japanese steakhouse for special occasions. It's perfect on light greens, like butter lettuce, and I also really like it on chicken. And, if I'm being honest, I'll also happily eat it right out of the bowl with a spoon :-)

Asparagus -- Last week's asparagus became today's lunch. I tossed it with olive oil and salt, roasted it at 400 for maybe 30 minutes to cook it. Then, served it on toast for lunch --  rub toast with a cut clove of garlic, lay the asparagus on top, and garnish with a drizzle of olive oil and some cheese (Trader Joe's Cheddar-Asiago in this case, but Parm or goat cheese would also work well).

This week, we'll do it on the grill, following this recipe.  I am NOT a mayonnaise fan, but the mayo mostly cooks off on the grill, leaving behind a tangy, smoky flavor. You do need to make sure you use smoked paprika and not the normal stuff, which is sort of blah. I find smoked paprika in little metal tins in the spice aisle at Whole Foods or Berkeley Bowl. The brand is Chiqulin. It's actually cheaper in local stores than at that link, though. More like 2.99 or so.  We don't bother to peel the asparagus, just cut off the tough ends. Farm fresh asparagus usually isn't tough enough to bother.

I don't get as excited about asparagus as lots of folks do, but these two recipes keep me pretty happy. We also often use it in risotto (cut into small pieces and toss it in at the very end so it stays semi-crisp and bright green)

Mei Qing Choi. This is basically baby bok choi. Good stir-fried with oyster sauce, although I'll confess that this is not my favorite green. It often goes a bit yellow before we get around to eating it.

Leeks. I recently learned that you can freeze leeks, which has changed my cooking world. I just pre-slice and wash them, then spin them dry in the salad spinner. Toss 'em in a big ziploc and lay them flat to freeze. Then, you can just grab a handful whenever you need, without all the fuss. We got a LOT of leeks this winter, so I was getting really behind on using them up until I learned this trick!  Also, one of this week's leeks is literally as big around as my wrist!

Honestly, I thought this week's farm box was a bit light, compared to what we usually get. And I was sad there wasn't spinach or other cooking greens, since we can easily go through three bunches of those a week.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Farm Box: Week 5

This week's farm box contained:

3 lbs Satsuma Mandarins (Much better quality again than a couple weeks ago)
2 lbs Navel Oranges
1 bu Carrots
1 bu Collards
½ lb Romanesco
1 lb Broccoli
1 bu Scarlet Queen Turnips with greens (these are the small red ones that look like radishes)
3 lbs Assorted Roots (this included parsnips, rutabega, and large white turnips, all without greens)

The romanesco was gorgeous. It tastes like a cross between broccoli and cauliflower, and has this amazing fractal pattern. Like this:

It was a tough week for using up the produce for a few reasons. First, 5 lbs more freakin' oranges! I hadn't even finished last week's oranges! I love getting fruit in the box, but I kind of wish I was getting a mix of citrus or some apples too, instead of all oranges. Also, Josh was out of town for 3 days. And the weather was really warm, which made me not want roasted veggies -- not so great for a week when the box had a ton of root veg.

Wednesday: We had stir-fry, based on this recipe from the Pioneer Woman, using broccoli from the farm box, along with some carrots. The broccoli this week was absolutely delicious. Very fresh and so green tasting. Yum! I ate this stir-fry leftover for lunch the next day, too.

Thursday: I was feeling a little under the weather Thursday, so I made healthy comfort food -- greens and broth. I sauteed thin ribbons of collard and turnip greens, and then tossed in homemade veg broth, cooked white beans, some parm cheese rinds, garlic, and ginger. Let it all simmer for a while and then slurped it up. It was exactly what my body needed.

Friday and Saturday: I confess, I didn't touch stuff from the farm box either of these nights. Friday I was really craving this pasta, which I make with pork sausage rather than the spicy salami. So I made that for dinner Friday night, and ate it as leftovers for Saturday lunch and dinner, with salad on the side. Carbo loading before my big race on Sunday!

Sunday dinner: I ran a half marathon Sunday morning, so I was pretty freakin' exhausted by Sunday night. And since J. wasn't home from Aspen yet, I was on for my dinner. I had roasted romanesco from the box (tossed with olive oil, salt, sumac (which has a lemony flavor), and a touch of chili powder), a Trader Joe's chicken sausage and a salad. It was all I could manage.

Monday dinner: We did roasted lamb sausages with a root veggie gratin (potatoes from a couple weeks ago, turnips, rutabaga, parsnip, all sliced thin, parboiled, then combined with garlic, onions, milk, flour and cheese. Baked at 400 or so for 30 minutes. YUM! ) and also sauteed kale, since J. had it in the fridge already.

Tuesday dinner: Red curry noodles with broccoli and collards along with other veg I had around the house -- mushrooms, shallots, garlic.

This week, we still have a lot left over from the box, unfortunately:

-- Nearly all of the oranges from last week
-- about half of last week's root veggies
-- 1 or 2 scarlet queen turnips
-- nearly a full bunch of carrots
-- That cabbage from a couple weeks ago

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Farm Box Week 4, update

Almost time for our first February farm box to arrive. But first, here's an update of what we've done with the rest of our last January box.


2 potatoes
a few carrots
1 green cabbage from a couple weeks ago
1 lb broccoli
a crapload of mandarins and navel oranges (and I'm getting 5 more lbs tomorrow!)

Saturday Lunch: Leftover risotto from Friday, which had Rapini from the farm box, formed into patties with some bread crumbs and lightly pan-fried.

Saturday dinner: J. was up in Tahoe skiing so HE had In N Out for dinner. I had poached eggs, polenta, and chard. My whole meal turned a lovely pink color from the brightly-colored stems of the chard.

Sunday lunch:
More risotto cakes, with a big farmer's market salad.

Sunday Dinner: Roast chicken with potatoes and carrots. These carrots are seriously the best I've ever eaten. They get so sweet and rich when you roast them that I'd just about stab someone with my fork if they tried to snatch one off my plate. Kale on the side for Josh, salad for me (I was craving crunchy greens).

Monday Dinner:
Butternut squash soup with parmesan toast. This has become a real staple this winter.

Tuesday Dinner: Scrambled eggs and toast, I'm afraid. I had a late meeting and just didn't have the energy to cook by the time I got home. The eggs were doctored with frozen kale from the freezer and the toast was served with my own home-made marmalade, at least.

We supplemented the farm box this week with 1.5 lbs of salad mix from the farmer's market (we go through a LOT of salad between Josh and I), a bunch of dino kale, mushrooms, onions, and garlic. Oh, and bananas. Those aren't exactly grown locally!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

River Dog Farm Box, Week 4

On week 4 of the farm box experiment, already, and I just re-upped for next month. We've really been enjoying the veggies and I'm amazed each week by the wonderful variety get, even in the dead of winter.

Leftover from last week:

a few carrots
1 delicata squash (from a couple weeks ago)
4-5 mandarins and one navel orange
2-3 parsnips

This week's box contained:

1 bunch carrots

1 lb Broccoli.
It must be hitting good broccoli season here, because the broccoli was just lovely this week. I think it's probably going to go into a broccoli-potato soup, but it looks so lovely, we might just steam it and eat it with a squeeze of lemon and some salt.

1 bunch Rapini
The rapini was also really lovely this week. Very fresh and green, and we got a huge bunch of it. The cold weather a couple weeks ago really sweetened it up, so it was hardly bitter at all.

3 lbs Satsuma Mandarins
2 lbs Navel Oranges

Honestly, I'm getting tired of the mandarins. Last week's were kind of manky -- too big and starting to get really tough membranes and lose their super-sweetness. That meant that I didn't even finish eating last week's and was a little dismayed to see a whole new batch to eat through this week. I might just squeeze them for juice tomorrow morning and have fresh juice with my breakfast.

1 bunch chard
The chard this week was stunning. Just look at it:

Chard is actually not my favorite green. I'd usually much prefer kale. But this particular variety turned out to be just as delicious as it was beautiful. Hurray!

1½ lbs Yellow Creamer Potatoes

1 Butternut Squash

Although I've been really pleased, overall, with the variety we're getting in the box, we still haven't gotten any beets -- none for the entire month -- which is kind of disappointing. I will say, though, that those are really the only thing that I expected to get in my boxes that I haven't yet gotten. And so far, we've only gotten one thing that I didn't really like -- the bok choi a couple weeks ago. I'm just not a huge bok choi fan.

With the CSA I was a member of in Chicago, my pick-up site had a "trade box." Basically, if you got something you weren't especially fond of in your box, you could put it in the trade box and take something that someone else had put there. I wish that my pick-up site for River Dog had this. Mostly, I wouldn't use this option, but I would gladly have traded away that bok choi a couple weeks ago for another bunch of kale.

An overall note on quality. Mostly, I've been very pleased with the quality of what I've gotten in my boxes. It's been very fresh and delicious. There have been a few minor exceptions: As I mentioned above, last week's mandarins were less-than-stellar, and one navel orange was totally rotten the day after I got it -- yuck! Some of my first batch of broccoli had also gone rotten.

Anyway, here's what we've done with this week's veggies so far:

Tuesday dinner: The night before this week's box came, I used up most of what was left of the veggies from last week. I roasted carrots, turnips, and parsnips together with a chopped up lemon, olive oil, and a bunch of spices, then served it over quinoa.

Wednesday dinner: stuffed chicken breasts over polenta, based on this recipe, which has become one of our favorites. We sauteed leek from last week's box along with mushrooms, garlic, and some of that lovely chard, then folded it inside thinly pounded chicken breasts along with some fontina cheese. Yum! We served it over polenta and it was just delicious. This was also Thursday lunch for me, as leftovers.

Thursday dinner: I was on my own for Thursday dinner, since J. was at work late, so I made a simple meal -- leftover polenta, served with some of the rapini, which I blanched in boiling water for just a couple minutes and poached eggs. Super-fast and healthy, yet satisfying.

Friday dinner: Last night we made risotto with delicata squash, mushrooms, leek, and the rest of the rapini. I cut the squash into small cubes, then pre-browned it in butter on the stovetop, and blanched the rapini, before adding both at the very end of the cooking process. (If you add them too early, they just disintegrate before the rice is done. Used my home-made veggie stock, and basically followed Mark Bittman's directions for risotto from How to Cook Everything, which has been my go-to cookbook for years.

As for everything else, I suspect the squash will become soup, and the potatoes and broccoli may, too. Or, the potatoes and carrots might end as roasted veggies alongside our usual Sunday night roast (chicken or pork loin most weeks).

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

River Dog Farm Box, Week 3

Week 3, already, of my farm box experiment. Today was lovely because I worked from home, so I actually got to walk down to my pick-up site at lunchtime to get my box. It was was one of those gorgeous Bay Area winter days that feels like May in any place else I've ever lived: 65 degrees, softly sunny, the smell of damp earth in the air. The not-quite-a-mile walk to my pick-up site was just wonderful.

Leftover from last week:

Mostly, we just had odds and ends leftover, with the exception of the delicata. But those will keep forever, so I'm not worried about it. Here's what was left:

1 watermelon radish
A few leaves of Kale
A few broccoli leaves (we ate all the heads, though)
2 delicata squash
A couple red radishes
1 mandarin orange
1 carrot
2-3 parsnips

This week's box contained:

1 very large celery root (also known as celariac)
I've never actually cooked with celery root before, so I'm not entirely sure what to do with it. I've read the flavor is something like celery crossed with parsley, and that it mellows as it cooks. I'm thinking maybe a potato-celery root soup or maybe a gratin with potatoes and leeks?

It's a bit homely looking, no?

1 large bunch collard greens
Again, not something I've ever cooked with before. However, Josh and I both adore dark greens and eat at least one bunch, if not two, of kale every week. Usually, we saute it in a hot pan with a bit of water and salt and then spritz it with lemon juice right before serving. I'm guessing I can cook this in a similar manner and I'm sure we'll enjoy it.

1 bunch Tokyo turnips
These are the small, smooth white turnips that look like overgrown radishes, not the big purplish knobbly ones. I don't dislike turnips, but I don't ever really buy them. I suspect these are destined to be cut up and eaten as snacks, with blue cheese dip. If I make a gratin with the celery root and potatoes, maybe I'll add these. Also, my farm box said you can eat the greens, as well, just like any other dark green.

1 bunch carrots
The carrots from my boxes have been so lovely. Fat and sweet and perfectly formed. I think winter carrots are SO much better than summer ones! These will get snacked on and a few probably roasted, as well.

1 green cabbage
Frankly, I was a little dismayed to see this in my box, as Josh and I currently have a monster-sized batch of sauerkraut fermenting and a huge head of cabbage left over from J's accidental over-buy for the sauerkraut AND half a head of purple cabbage in my fridge. Luckily, cabbage keeps pretty well, so if this sits in the fridge for a few weeks before I use it up, I'm sure it'll be fine. Anyone have any good cabbage recipes?

4 leeks
These are such a staple, I'm sure I won't have a hard time using them up. I use them in eggs, soups, sauces, etc. Also, I save the tough darker green bits to use to make broth. I just keep a baggie in the freezer for odds and ends like this (mushroom stems, leek greens, chicken bones, etc) and when I have a bunch saved up, I make my own stock. So much better than anything you can buy in the store, and practically free, since I make it mostly with scraps.

2 lbs navel oranges AND 3 lbs satsuma mandarins
Glad there are some navels mixed in with the oranges this week. It's nearing the end of peak Satsuma season, I think -- they're starting to look a bit knobbly and faded.

Here's everything from the box, all laid out

I have to say, I'm not as excited about this week's box as I have been about the past two. The food all looks great, it's just that none of my favorites were included this week. I was hoping for a nice bunch of beets and more kale and winter squash. Anyway, here's what I'm thinking (farm box ingredients in italics):

Wednesday Lunch: This lunch was all about using up last week's odds and ends before going to pick up this week's box. Luckily, I worked from home, so I was able to make a more elaborate lunch than usual -- my own version of the Peanut Sesame Noodles from Smitten Kitchen. I discovered this recipe a couple of years ago, and it has become one of my staples. It's easy to whip up fast for a weeknight, it's healthy, and it allows for infinite variation -- I almost always have the ingredients for it in the house. Today's version had: shredded red cabbage, thinly sliced radishes, thinly sliced and blanched broccoli leaves, blanched ribbons of kale and bok Choi, and shredded carrots. All but the cabbage were left from last week's farm box. I also often toss in some tofu (browned in a dry pan) and some frozen peas or Trader Joes frozen "Soycatash."

Wednesday Dinner: Lively Up Yourself Lentil Soup from 101 Cookbooks (a great resource for healthy, veggie-heavy recipes). I used a combination of greens -- the greens from this week's turnips, a couple leaves of this week's collards, and the few leaves that were left from last week's kale. I never would have thought to eat the turnip greens, but the newsletter from Riverdog said you could use 'em like any other green. They were actually milder than I expected -- I guess since turnips have a sharper taste, I was expecting the greens to have the same.

Other plans for the box include some sort of gratin with the celeriac and some potatoes, collard greens as a side dish, and snacking on the turnips. This week will be a bit more of a challenge, so I'll let you know where I end up.

EDT to add:

Here's what we've done with the rest of last week's farm box:

Thursday Dinner:
Baked tilapia, served with sauteed collard greens splashed with lemon (it did taste pretty much exactly like kale, only a bit less tender), and mashed potatoes and celery root. This was my first time using celery root. I found that it tastes a bit like very mild celery crossed with artichoke heart (it leaves that same sort of sweet and tangy aftertaste in the back of your throat). It was delicious boiled and mashed with potatoes, butter, sour cream, and a bit of salt and pepper.

We actually went out for dinner on Friday night, a rare occurrence since I've been trying to save my pennies for a big trip to Alaska this coming summer.

Saturday dinner
: One of my favorite quick meals, rice bowls. Locally grown brown rice from Massa Family Organics (the best rice I've ever tasted!), topped with seared ahi tuna marinated in a little soy sauce, fresh ginger and garlic, then sprinkled with sesame seeds, lightly sauteed farm box carrots and turnips, plus some sauteed kale we bought to supplement the farm box. Bold
Sunday lunch:
Pasta salad with orzo, farm box carrots and turnips and leeks, kalamata olives and feta. This will also be lunch for a day or two this week.

Sunday dinner:
We made our common Sunday night roast pork, this time with a gratin on the side, made with celery root, potatoes, leeks, and delicata squash (from the Week 2 farm box). The gratin was totally amazing -- I could have eaten the whole pan on my own!

What's left:
As of right now, Monday mid-day, we have the following left from the boxes:

-- a couple parsnips (from 2 weeks ago)

-- 4 or 5 carrots

-- the entire cabbage

-- 1 delicata squash from a couple weeks ago

-- a few oranges, which will easily be eaten before this Wednesday's box arrives.

-- 2 turnips

-- 2 leeks

The carrots, parsnips, and turnips will get eaten tonight -- we're making sausages, roasted veggies, and eating the first of our home-fermented sauerkraut. God only knows what I'm going to do with that freakin' cabbage!

Other than that, I ended up throwing away what was left of the bok choi from a couple weeks ago, but other than a couple rotten oranges, that's the only thing I've tossed from the farm boxes. This is a HUGE change for me -- I'm notoriously bad about over-buying produce and throwing away half of what I buy. Since I started the farm boxes, the only produce I've bought is a bag of farmer's market salad a week and a couple extra bunches of kale. I've also cut my food spending by 30% (!!!) from my typical expenditures. This isn't just due to the farm box -- I've also been much more aware of my spending in general, but I think the farm box has helped. Anyway, I'd say that so far the farm box has been a resounding success. I've already sent in my check to sign up again for next month.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

River Dog Farm Box, Week 2

This is the second in my series of posts about my new membership in River Dog Farms' CSA. The first one can be found here.

Left from last week's box:
1 small head cauliflower, 2 potatoes 1 carrot. Everything else got devoured, and it pretty well lasted me the week. I supplemented with salad greens and a bunch of kale from the farmer's market and also an acorn squash I already had.

This weeks' box contained:

3lbs Satsuma Mandarins
1 lb Watermelon Radishes (3 big ones) (They look like this, for those of you who aren't familiar)
1 lb parsnips
1 huge heads Bok Choi
1 bunch Red Russian Kale
1 bunch Carrots
1 bunch Spinach
1 small bunch Red radishes
1/2 lb broccoli (3 small heads, lots of leaves and stems, small heads)
3 Delicata Squash.

Wednesday: Beef Stir fry with Bok Choi and Broccoli. Based on this recipe from The Pioneer Woman, which is utterly delicious and SO quick. Delicious and easy (I managed to successfully cook it after a wee bit too much wine at happy hour :-) I didn't even use half of the bok choi for it, though - there was so much.

Thursday: Mandarin oranges as snacks, red radishes in my salad at lunch. Dinner will be lamb sausage with roasted potatoes and cauliflower (leftover from last week), plus spinach and mandarin salad with this dressing.

This weekend, we'll probably make a pork roast with Honey-Glazed Roasted Carrots and Parsnips and sauteed kale.

I'm sure the oranges will get eaten, no problem, as I ate every last one from last week's box (other than the two that were rotten inside - ick!) Not quite sure what to do about the watermelon radishes. They'd be good in a cole slaw with red cabbage and maybe pecans, but that's not really very wintery. If I don't use 'em by the end of the week, I'll make them into pickles, maybe with that leftover cauliflower from last week, which I need to use up before it starts to go all spotty.

I'm thrilled, though, to see that it's mid-January and I still have quite a wide variety of produce coming in my box this week. That's pretty wonderful, and one of the joys of living in CA. The boy tells stories of going out with a steel gardening fork to dig out "winter carrots" from the garden as a kid (he grew up in Pennsylvania). I feel very fortunate that we don't have to do that!


EDT to add: Here's how we've continued to use up this week's box.

Friday: Roasted squash and cauliflower soup. I peeled, chopped, and roasted half an acorn squash I had in the fridge, along with a delicata from this week's farm box and the last of the cauliflower from last week's box in a 400 degree oven for 30 minutes or so, then sauteed some garlic and onions in a stockpot with 1 tbs butter. Added 4 cups home-made veggie broth and the squash / cauliflower. Cooked for a little bit, then blended with an immersion blender. Served topped with crumbled bacon and a swirl of greek yogurt, bread on the side. Delicious, healthy, and super easy!

Saturday: Spaghetti and sausage with farm box kale on the side. We love, love, love kale and it could not be easier to make. Just pull the leaves off the tough stems, and saute in a hot pan with a bit of olive oil and water. It tenderizes quicker if you cover the pan. At the end, sprinkle with salt and lemon juice. YUM!

Sunday: Pork Loin roasted with farm box carrots and parsnips, salad with watermelon radish. We used this recipe, originally from Bon Appetit, which has become my absolute favorite pork recipe. Instead of the baby carrots, we used full-sized carrots and parsnips, cut into long skinny quarters. Also, I usually skip the jalapeno in the carrot part of the recipe, in favor of using extra-spicy chili powder and some smoked paprika. The carrots and parsnips were amazing -- super-flavorful and sweet, a little bit caramelized from the long cooking time. Delicious! Leftovers of this, along with salad from the grocery store, will be my lunch for the next two days.

As of today, Monday, I have left from the box: 1.5 watermelon radish (part of which I'll eat at lunch today), 3 parsnips, 1 or 2 carrots, 1/3 of a bunch of kale, 2 delicata squash, 1/2 bunch bok choi (which probably won't get eaten. I've learned that I strongly prefer baby bok choi -- the big bunches are a little overpowering for me.), a few mandarins, a few broccoli leaves (which will probably go into my next batch of broth).

Friday, January 7, 2011

River Dog Farm Box: Week 1

For the month of January, I've signed up to get a weekly CSA box from River Dog Farm. For those not in the know, CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. Basically, small farms sell "shares" in the farm and when you buy one, it entitles you to a large box of produce from the farm each week.

Most places I've lived, this has been a sign-up-by-the season deal. For example, when I lived in Chicago, my roommates and I paid a few hundred bucks in advance for a share in a farm for the whole season. We got a box each week from the start of the season (May, if I'm remembering correctly) through mid-October or so. Here in the Bay Area, however, we are lucky enough to be surrounded by amazing family-run farms, so the options are much more varied and flexible. I found that most CSAs here run year-round and offer much shorter-term options -- anywhere from just needing to request a box the week you want one to committing to a few months at a go. I signed up just for the month of January to give it a test run, and it cost me $20 a week.

Every Wednesday, a box of delicious farm goodies gets delivered to a house in my neighborhood along with boxes for several other people. I just have to pick it up by 7pm on that day each week -- easy as pie. What you get in each box depends entirely on what's in season and ready to be picked, which is perfect for a non-fussy eater like me. That's pretty much what I eat, anyway, although I do give in to the occasional all-the-way-from-Chile indulgence at the Berkeley Bowl.

I picked up my first box a couple of days ago, and it was really lovely. Here it is.

It contained:
1 bunch rapini
2 big leeks
2 lb gold finn potatoes
1 bunch carrots (SO sweet, thanks to the chilly weather lately!)
4 small heads romaine lettuce
2 small heads cauliflower
1 large grey Kabocha squash
3 lbs satsuma mandarins (which is AWESOME, as I am utterly addicted to those babies right now)

I haven't added it up precisely, but that's certainly at least $20 worth of food at the grocery store or farmer's market. Especially since it's all organic. So far, here's what I've done with my produce:

Wednesday dinner: We made pasta with Rapini and white beans. Although the recipe doesn't call for it, I also sauteed one of the leeks and added that. Also, I used my own homemade veggie stock, which I make from various veggie scraps (mushroom stems, the green parts of leeks, parsley stems, etc) that I save in the freezer till I have enough for broth.

Thursday: Mandarins, mandarins, mandarins as snacks. Plus a couple of the carrots and for dinner the leftovers from Wednesday, supplemented with some roasted brussels sprouts that I already had in the fridge . Yum!

Friday: More snacking on the mandarins and carrots, a salad with the romaine for lunch, and roasted squash soup for dinner (I also used the other leek in the soup).

Saturday: Leftover squash soup for lunch and . . . ?

The potatoes will get used, no problem, as Josh and I usually eat potatoes at least once a week with roast pork, chicken, or sausages. Potatoes are also part of one of my key "emergency meals" -- poached eggs over pan-sauteed potatoes and greens with lots of salsa.

As for the cauliflower, my inclination is to use it for an indian-style curry, with chickpeas and carrots. Josh isn't a huge indian curry fan, though, so it may also end up in some kind of soup or just roasted with some spices as a side dish for some meal.

EDT to add:

pork chops with my own homemade apple-thyme jam and mashed CSA box potatoes.

Sunday: Chickpea, cauliflower, and carrot curry from this recipe. The original recipe doesn't call for any veg other than onions and chickpeas, but I've discovered that you can pretty easily add other sturdy veggies to the mix. Also, it's way better if you make it with ground cumin and coriander rather than whole.

Monday: Lunch was left-over curry and the last of the romaine from the farm box. Lunch tomorrow will be the same.

Will I use it all? For those of you keeping track, as of midday Monday, I have left 1 small head cauliflower, a couple potatoes, a couple carrots, and some mandarins. I'll eat the potatoes with eggs for dinner tonight, finish the mandarins in the next couple of days, and probably blanch and freeze the cauliflower if I don't eat it tomorrow as a snack (cauliflower and blue cheese onion dip is delicious!). A pretty good use of all those lovely veggies! I supplemented with a $3.00 bag of salad greens from the farmer's market and also gave into the temptation to buy some kale there, which I'll eat tonight with my potatoes and eggs. Can't wait to see what I get in this week's box!

So why did I sign up? Well, I already eat plenty of produce, for the most part. But I tend to WAY over-buy in the produce department at the grocery store, and a lot of what I purchase ends up going to waste. I am hoping that having my veggies delivered to me each week will mostly keep me out of the grocery store. I figure that if I only need to buy staples like eggs, milk, and dried goods, I can probably get away with only going every other week.

Also, I like the challenge of coming up with something to do with the wonderful produce I get. For some people, this might be stressful. But, as I said, I have pretty much never met a vegetable I didn't like if it was cooked properly (other than lima beans and their awful chalky texture - gross!) And I feel like getting surprise veggies each week is sort of like a creative writing prompt -- the parameters make me feel MORE creative rather than less. Like that rapini. I can't remember the last time I bought rapini, but it ended up being the first thing I used from the box. It just looked so vibrant and delicious, and I found a great new recipe that will definitely be added to my regular rotation.

Finally, I really love the idea of supporting a small, relatively local farmer really directly (these guys are in the Capay Valley, maybe 80 miles or so from where I live). I'm lucky enough to get to do most of my shopping already at farm markets and Berkeley Bowl, where many of their suppliers are small and local, anyway, but it's nice to know that my money goes directly to the farmer, no middle man.

Right now, I'm looking at this as an experiment. Some things I'm trying to figure out:

-- Will I be able to use all the produce each week before it goes bad? I suspect that this will be more an issue in the summer, when produce is more perishable, than now. Potatoes and squash and that sort of stuff stores very well. Tomatoes, herbs, lettuce, and that ilk, not so much.

-- Will I still have to supplement with the grocery store or farmer's market? (I'm almost positive that the answer to this is yes -- I'm going to want more salad greens than I'll get most weeks, and lots of extra fruit in the summer especially.) If so, how much? And am I ultimately saving money on groceries by doing this?

-- Is River Dog the right CSA for me? I also looked at several other farms, including Full Belly Farm, Terra Firma (appealing because I actually used to live within a few miles of this farm), and Farm Fresh to You (which is mostly Capay Organic). I chose River Dog because the price was right, they get good reviews on Yelp, and they also raise pigs and chickens. I'd love to also start purchasing sustainably raised meat direct from the rancher at some point, so that seemed like a good reason to start with River Dog for my CSA.

Anyway, I'll keep y'all updated on how it goes, but I think week 1 was a sure success.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Daily Dose of Gratitude #79

1. Last week, going for a twilight run around Lake Merritt: Candy-colored sky, crisp air, sparkling "necklace of lights" around the lake.

2. The dog running down the street ahead of his owner last night. He was wearing a jingle-bell collar and it totally sounded, in the dark, like a reindeer was trotting down the road toward me.

3. Trivia night!

4. Incarceron by Catherine Fisher. I whipped through it in a day and wish I had more teens and pre-teens in my life to give it to. You'll love it if you like the Suzanne Collins Hunger Games series.

5. Hand-made knit goods winging their way to family and friends across the country.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Daily Dose of Gratitude #78

1. Random late-breaking brilliant bursts fall color in Northern California (the first year I've been here that there's really been any color at all!)

2. The new (or, rather, beautifully refurbished) swimming pool on my way home from work, the Richmond Plunge.

3. My awesome running partners.

4. 23+ miles of running last week -- the most I've ever run in a week and with no pain!

5. The hundred plus kids' books (publisher's samples) I was able to donate to Children's Hospital Oakland last week. I'm glowing with the idea of sick kids having this huge stack of new books to choose from to keep them occupied in a hard time.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Daily Dose of Gratitude #77

1. Three backpacking trips in 4 weeks (Desolation Wilderness, Point Reyes, and the Trinity Alps).

2. Planning a trip back east for some real autumn for the first time since 2004.

3. Cupcakes with sprinkles on the icing.

4. This video:

Magic- A Belly Grows from The Panic Room Videos on Vimeo.

5. A life full of really wonderful friends and family.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Daily Dose of Gratitude #76

1. Finally, a summer night warm enough for a sundress, no sweater (literally the first one all year!)

2. Walking around Berkeley after dark, in a sundress and sandals, eating popsicles.

3. A cool shower before bed to make a hot night more comfortable.

4. Someone else making good, strong coffee for you in the morning.

5. Feeling like all is basically right with the world.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Daily Dose of Gratitude #75

1. A rope swing out into a lake.

That is obviously not me on the swing -- it's my crazy boyfriend. I was either too wussy or too smart, depending on who you ask, to do it. That swing was HIGH. (For Bay Area folks, it's at Bass Lake in Pt Reyes. Be prepared for lots of skinny gay men in their skivvies hanging around the swing if you head out there :-)

2. Summer in the Bay Area, finally. Last night, I ate dinner on my porch in short sleeves and got to sleep with all the windows open and just a thin blanket for covers for the first time since last September. Seriously.

3. A Saturday afternoon spent canning, which led to a pantry full of delicious homemade pickles (dill and bread-and-butter) plus organic blackberry jam.

4. The glow of sunset on a bluff above the ocean.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Daily Dose of Gratitude #74

1. Weekend backpacking trips in the mountains (Desolation Wilderness, in this case. Stunning.)

2. Wildflowers

3. Clouds at sunset

4. Icy cold dips in alpine lakes.

5. Finally getting the hang of taking pictures of people:

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Daily Dose of Gratitude #73

1. A first-thing-in-the-morning email that makes you feel all glowy inside.

2. Drinking good wine and chatting while someone makes you a delicious dinner.

3. Black on the outside, red-on-the-inside plums.

4. The glow in my limbs that lasts for hours after a cold swim in the ocean.

5. This song:

Monday, August 2, 2010

Daily Dose of Gratitude #72

1. A gorgeous 25 mile bike ride in Petaluma, followed by wine tasting at my favorite winery.

2. Wild blackberries at the side of the road, warm in the sun.

3. My "baby" sister, who turns 25 today. I left home for college when she was only 9, so it took me a long time to feel like I really knew her as anything more than a sometimes annoying little kid. But I'm so proud of the wonderful adult she's become.

4. Charlotte's Web, which makes me bawl my eyes out every single time I read it (which is a LOT). And while I'm at it, other books from my childhood that still alternately utterly charm me and make me bawl: Tuck Everlasting, Where the Red Fern Grows, Bridge to Terabithia.

5. Quinoa and summer veggie salad (corn, beets, kale, tons of fresh herbs, local olive oil and vinegar, fresh mozzarella). Yum!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Home on the Range

I'll admit it. I've got an odd obsession with old buildings. Especially weathered, falling-down barns. To me, they always feel full of potential, like they have an untold story that you can almost hear on the breeze. And if old barns are your obsession, Wyoming isn't a bad place to visit. The wood buildings weather beautifully in the harsh climate, and the buildings look amazing against that huge Western sky.

In Grand Teton, there's an area called Mormon Row that blew me away in this regard. This is the area where a small enclave of Mormons first settled in the 1890s. The barn at the top of this post was part of the the Thomas Murphy Homestead, and was built sometime in the 1920s. I love that the barns were more elaborate and larger than the houses, which were often simple log cabins. Some were even ordered directly from the Sears and Roebuck catalog!

This home was, if I'm remembering correctly, also a part of the Murphy homestead. In the mid-50s, the homes were abandoned when the land was aquired in order to expand Grand Teton National Park although I'm not sure why. Anyway, they now lie on National Park land, a few remaining barns and homes sinking slowly sinking back into the Wyoming dirt.

The barn below was a part of the Andrew and Ida Chambers Homestead.

And a barn from the Thomas and Lucille Moulton Homestead, built in the 1910s. I suspect that this one may have had some sort of refurbishing done on it, since the wood seems an awfully bright color for something that's been weathering the Wyoming elements for 100 years. But perhaps it's just the type of wood used to build it?

Seeing these old buildings really took my breath away. The sky just seemed so huge over them, and the mountains so towering. I imagine living out here must have been lonely, in some ways, even as the scenery was spectacular. It can't have been anywhere near easy, though, in a time before the modern conveniences we all depend on so much. In any case, only one of the old homes is still occupied by humans (as a bed and breakfast), but animal inhabitants are everywhere. We saw plenty of the ubiquitous bison. Also, pronghorns. This is also where we saw the baby coyote and great horned owls from my last post.

And it's not just in the park that these old houses can be found. After leaving Grand Teton, we saw this amazing old house somewhere in Idaho.

I made my traveling companion pull over so I could take approximately a zillion photos. Apparently, the inside of the place was a wreck from being used as a party house by local teens. I didn't bother to look inside, though. I prefer the romance of the outside.

I mean, seriously, doesn't it just make you feel lonely and breathless from the beauty at the same time? Look at that SKY!

Finally, on a side note, I think part of my old barn obsession comes from spending summers near this barn: DH Day Barn, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lake Shore. It's actually not falling-down at all. It's beautifully maintained. But it's certainly the most gorgeous barn I've ever seen. It's like something out of a fairy tale. I secretly kind of want to live in it!