Saturday, August 30, 2014

Glad someone's growing something around here because it sure as shit isn't me. Apparently.

You know how people say shit like contractors' houses are always in the worst repair or cleaning ladies' houses are always the messiest or whatever?

Yeah, so I think I'm like that now, but for farmers.

Because WHOA does my vegetable garden suck it this year.

Um, sad.
Um, sadder.

I mean, yes, it's the end of the summer and usually shit looks like shit by now, but it's basically looked this sad since, like, June, and when we got back from our backpacking trip I hobbled out there on my peg leg and ripped the beans out of that empty bed you see there because I couldn't take it anymore.

It was depressing.

It's possible that with finishing my horticulture degree, starting a new farm job and going on a two week backpacking trip that tried to kill me, I *may* have neglected my vegetable garden, like, the tiniest bit.

I should probably be ashamed of myself, but as is my way, I'm just forgetting about it and moving on.

Enter the winter garden.

Red baron onions were so awesome last year, I'm putting in a hundred this year, which is twice as many as last year for those of you who are keeping count. Which is weird of you to do, I just want to say.

Dill and cilantro were so badass all winter last year even when the hard frost came, so that's happening again, too. En mass.

Plus, I've organized the direct sow stuff (Pacific Gold and Ruby Streaks mustard greens, Romance and Nelson carrots, Hollow Crown parsnips, Cherry Belle and French Breakfast radishes, arugula, buckwheat, Aquadulce fava beans, Rocky Top lettuce) that will go in once it stops being in the fucking nineties all the live long day FINALLY GAH.

I'm over summer, people. Specifically, the heat. It's to the point where I'm saying Fall with a capital F to see if I can't bring about the end of this molten summer. It's not working.

Thankfully, for the sake of our winter tomato eating and Other Foods of Summer Which I Failed To Grow eating, I've discovered the best perk of working on a farm and that is the peer pressure to PLEASE TAKE SOME FUCKING WHATEVER YOU WANT OUT OF THE COOLERS BECAUSE THERE'S SO MUCH.

Yes, hi, I will have 22 pounds of dry farmed tomatoes thank you.


"Plant it, eat it, throw it at the neighbor kids - just take some of this garlic."
"The dry farmed tomatoes are in - let's go taste them." = favorite thing I've ever heard someone say.
"Oh, and pick as many as you want. There are lots." = second favorite thing I've ever heard someone say.

That's a lot of zucchini to leave on neighbors' porches.
These peppers were too big for retail sales, so OOPSY DARN I'll have to take a flat home.
Also I bought a pie from the farm stand because obviously.

And then I finally, after being in a total cooking/eating/dealing with only dehydrated food rut, I took all of that goodness into my kitchen and made a new thing.

Herbed cheese stuffed zucchini blossoms

  • A few dozen squash blossoms (pick the males, which are the flowers without the little squash growing on the bottom), rinsed, dried and stamen removed (that's the pointy part in the flower with the pollen all over it)
  • 8 oz plain soft farmer's cheese
  • A few handfuls of fresh herbs (I used parsley, dill, cilantro, savory and basil), chopped
  • 1 cup white flour
  • 1T sea salt
  • 1T fresh ground pepper
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup vegetable oil

To make

Mix the chopped herbs, salt, pepper and cheese until the herbs are distributed evenly throughout the cheese. 

Carefully unravel the blossoms and press a tablespoon or two of the cheese mixture into the stamen-less center of each blossom and twist it closed.

Then set it up decoratively on a plate and spend way too long taking pictures of your handiwork because LOOK HOW FANCY.


This one was the king I decided.

Then start your oil heating in a deep fry pan over medium heat until it shimmers and mix together the flour, salt and pepper in a bowl.

Crack your egg into another bowl, whisk it up and set up your conga line to the fry pan.

Then, because you're a dick and probably also because you've been drinking this whole time, take the first stuffed blossom with your handy tongs and completely bypass the conga line and stick the thing right in the hot oil without battering it. 

Then realize the error of your ways, rescue it out of the oil, send it through the conga line while hoping that the hot oil won't start cooking the egg, see that it totally does, replace the egg in the bowl, dip the semi-cooked egg battered blossom in the flour mixture, put it gently in the hot oil, move your cocktail to the bar where you won't be able to constantly sip from it, and then proceed to dip, batter and fry the rest of the blossoms without error.

When you're done frying your battered blossoms to a golden brown by just letting them slowly fry over medium heat instead of trying to speed things up by overheating and thus burning them over high heat, make a quick caprese salad with what's left of your farm haul, put out some good balsamic vinegar to dip your blossoms into and have the most indulgent dinner since the last time you made fried chicken.

Sure, fried stuffed zucchini blossoms should probably be an appetizer,  but eh. 

Eat them all in one sitting because they don't save for shit.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

As I come screaming out of the woods

So yeah, I'm home.

A week early.

Because even though I planned, trained and packed for a two week backpacking trip to hike the John Muir Trail with Bubba and our Super Nice Neighbor, my knee had other plans.

Twisty plans.

So, we're hiking along on Day 2 of the thing, all stuffed full of Chili Mac and Nutella and then some things that are actually healthy food items, passing amazing scenery and not getting rained on yet (YET I SAID) and we come to our first set of steep rock staircases coming up to Evolution Meadow.

When I say steep rock staircases, what I mean is switchbacks constructed entirely of foot thick giant granite blocks stacked a few feet apart all the way up the muther fucking mountain in the soul-crushing shape of switchbacks.

Like this.
Like, blow me.


But, being the Hey whatever, I'm totally in shape and I can do this even though my pack weighs two tons and I'm not so swift with the trekking poles yet gal that I am, I totally went for it.

Like one might just go for it with, say, a certain ill-fated workout routine.


And, like a certain ill-fated workout routine, I busted myself.

Now, I'm not going to continue aligning shitty shit Crossfit with amazing awesome beautiful LOVE IT SO MUCH backpacking because that would be unfair to backpacking, but my approach to extreme exercise like my attitude when I was a teenager, in the words of my mother, "has got to stop".

It's time I learned a few things, like:

  1. I am not 10 years old even though I act like it
  2. "Forcing It" should maybe not be my personal mantra anymore
  3. One should never twist while lifting
If I'd embraced these things before this trip, perhaps I wouldn't have twisted my knee to the point of nearly tears and before that even maybe I wouldn't have wandered off into the woods with a backpack just shy of 50 pounds (49.5 said the scale).

Hi! I'm fucking retarded.



Now, the fun part about this (fun is just not the right word here, but I'm moving on), is that I did sort of embrace #2 back there as I continued to march on through the pain for another two days. What I mean is that after two days of being all, "Oh, I'll be fine. I'll just take some more Aleve and try not to be such a vagina about it." I finally gave in to the reality of things.

The reality being that the first pass we crossed (Muir Pass, 11,995') nearly put me in the ground and it being the second lowest pass we were going to cover meant that HI STUPID perhaps my knee isn't going to make it over 4 more passes that are higher, steeper and just full to the fucking brim with sunuvabitching granite block steps, monster gravel, boulders, massively steep descents that would press my right knee into action every other step and, you know, evil gremlins out to eat my feet and knees.


Also I was going terribly slow because it's hard to hobble at a normal hiking pace and OH YEAH my boots were consuming my feet at the rate of one blister per mile.

Or so.

It was getting ugly on my feet and knee, I was getting progressively pathetically slower and I had only crossed one of six passes. 

Oh yay me. Way to go.

Then it started to rain. And then snow. And then hail.

Not super encouraging.
Also, bizarre halo effect courtesy of hail on my camera lens.

So as Bubba and I sat out the hail/rain/thunder and lightning storm for 14 hours in our wee "2 person" tent, we got real.

This is Bubba's Get real and stop arguing with me because you know I'm right face. It's convincing, I'll admit.

Also, I had no escape, so that helped.

Ah, hail. Just what you want on your backpacking trip.

As in, if I tried to man up through five more high elevation passes, I was going to destroy my right knee forever, probably ruin my left knee compensating for my shit ass right knee and my feet were going to become one giant blister as soon as all of my toenails fell off. 

"Manning up" for 70 more miles wasn't an option. 

Instead, because Bubba is a wise Eagle Scout and good husband aware of the realities of backcountry injuries, his wife's stubbornness and the remaining available outs on the trail, convinced me that we should bail out over Bishop Pass (11,980') and thumb a ride into town so that we could hopefully get a rental car to drive my hobbled ass back to the Bay Area. 

He is very wise, this one.

"Why you no listen to Bubba? I KNOW THINGS, CRAZY WOMAN."

So I gave in. I came to terms with the fact that I wasn't going to finish the last five passes of the John Muir Trail with him and our Super Nice Neighbor like I'd set out to. I dealt with the oppressive feelings of failure and suckiness and not getting to swim all the live long day at Rae Lakes during our zero day as planned. I let go of my dreams of fishing high mountain streams and lakes for trout. I gave up on Eastern Sierra sunsets and waterfalls and pee-pee inducing views and seeing fuzzy creatures bouncing their fat butts over granite boulders and chasing frogs through the creek crossings and all of the things that I had stuffed my brains with as we'd prepped for this trip.

Because he promised that when my knee was better and my one thousand blisters healed, we'd come back. 

And he picked me some flowers so that I wouldn't be sad.

And I'd only carry a 30 pound pack, wear trail running shoes (MISSED YOU, BROOKS ADRENALINE ASR GTXs!) and never lift and twist again.

That was enough to convince me to scratch at Bishop Pass Junction, a scant 30 or so miles into our hike. 

What I didn't know, and what probably would have helped me over the hump had either of us realized it was ahead of us, was that the Bishop Pass Trail from Le Conte Canyon IS FUCKING GORGEOUS.

Hello, Eastern Sierras. AREN'T YOU THE LOOKER.

Oh, and YOU over there - not too shabby.

I'm a sucker for trees with sexy bark. There. Now you know.

I'm afraid I'll have to take a break from hiking to STARE AT THIS FOREVER YES.

Smiling even though bleeding. The sign of amazing views.

Monster waterfall? Yes, please.

So many pack outfitters. So much horse and mule poo. Still - never got old.

Nice going, Bishop Pass.

We were, uh, into it.

Now, yes, the trail is steep and switchbacky and knee-wrecky for three miles as you eat up a few thousand feet of elevation and there were definite moments of desperation as folks would be hiking down the trail from Dusy Basin all fresh looking and not swearing loudly at every step they took like some people BUT, like the book said, the views are distracting enough to keep you moving.

Like, as you're hiking the switchbacks to the south you're looking at an enormous gorgeous waterfall and as you turn back and hike the switchbacks to the north, you're looking at a span of the Eastern Sierra that busts your eyes with its hugeness.

Also Cal Fire helicopters.

So, I lived to see the glory GLORY I SAY of the unfortunately named Dusy Basin.


Yeah. It was incredible. So beautiful and peaceful and not full of hikers racing from one campsite to the next talking endlessly about their calorie consumption and Ultralight packs and even with a meandering stream chock full of trout feeding from the surface that I could hardly strip down to my skivvies and go swimming and fishing before putting my pack down.

Happy now. Even with fucked up feet and knees.

Well, it was exactly what I needed. 

And what Bubba needed. 

Plus, it didn't rain, I got to fish and swim, we watched the Super Moon wander across the sky and light up the basin and when we finished the pass and then descended into Bishop the next day, a very awesome couple gave us a ride into Bishop so that we could get my peg legged ass back to doctor-having society.

Which was a bit of a task.

I won't go into complete detail about our return to civilization, so will just say that it involved finding no available rental cars in Bishop, so instead orchestrating a near Planes, Trains and Automobiles transportation bonanza from a dive bar while people came out of the fucking woodwork to interrogate us on where we'd been and how was the hike and how long have you been in the woods and oh that's OK that you smell so rank since you've been "on the trail" and whatever.

Bishop is a cool place, y'all. Because after being treated like scourges as we hiked the JMT (no bathroom access for thru-hikers, no hot springs for thru-hikers, etc), suddenly we were in the land of Hey, Backpackers! Your sodas are on the house! Have a razor/shampoo/king size room at no extra charge! Put your big smelly dirty packs anywhere! Of course we deliver to your hotel room! Certainly you can pay with a credit card on board and stow your disgusting packs on the bus no problem! Let me lift your staggeringly heavy backpacks into the cab! How cool that you're doing this that I'm not judging you for your foul dumpster-like odor!

And that land is called, Bishop, CA.

So, on our journey back to the Bay Area, Bubba decided to rename our trip to something more suitable to what we'd accomplished rather than what we'd bailed on.

John Muir Trail Trip turned into First Trans-Sierra Trip right there as we cruised to Reno aboard the surprisingly accommodating Eastern Sierra Transit bus.

So, yeah, all told, we hiked about 70 miles, covered many thousands of feet in elevation, busted one knee, got a dozen or so blisters, saw waterfalls, lakes, super friendly deer, marmots, toads, frogs, picas, brook trout, rainbow trout, Swamp Onions, penstemon, lilies, huge peaks, the Muir Hut, met some cool people, met some lame people, had a bear in our campsite, rode out a hail storm in our still waterproof tent, swam, fished, ate some good backpacking food and some less good backpacking food, destroyed one backpack (mine) and one pair of boots (Bubba's), bruised our eyes with beauty and went swimming while it snowed.

And as soon as Bubba got me back home, we packed him up to go back to the trail to meet our Super Nice Neighbor, which is hopefully who he's with at this very moment at Charlotte Lake

Not going to lie, here, I'll be glad when I have him back home with me once I pick him and our Super Nice Neighbor up at the Mt Whitney Trailhead on Friday so I can give him the royal Thanks For Keeping Me From Wrecking Myself While Still Making Our Trip Super Fun and Awesome treatment.

Suggestions welcomed.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Before I run screaming into the woods

Just a semi-long random ass update before we go off the grid like psychos into the woods.

Walking around

Remember how I was all, "I'm going to walk around in the woods for 2 weeks" and shit?

Well, that's about to actually happen.

Like, this coming weekend it starts.

Even though I'm still sort of in denial about the whole thing.

Like, yeah, we've packed two bear canisters with 32 pounds of food, shipped a giant 34 pound box of food to our resupply guy, gone on some training death marches, set up the tent in the backyard, bought a new tent when the old one turned out to have some dry rot (15 years of hard labor, poor thing), test cooked dinner on our campstove, rebuilt the campstove when we realized all the O-rings were about to blow, outfitted ourselves with as much OMNI-FREEZE sunblocking clothing as we could find, realized we might be cold and then packed our sub-zeroest long underwear and down jackets and booties, dipped matches into paraffin to waterproof them, read the fishing reports, stuffed gallons of peanut butter and Nutella into squeeze tubes, filled soft bottles with booze, weighed our packed bags (53.25 pounds? HOLY EFFING MUTHER FUCKING SHIT) and put our mail on hold but still I haven't come to terms with the fact that we are about to go into the woods for two weeks.

Oh yeah. Let's do this.
I mean, I guess we could. Or we could stay home and lie down.

And that my rickety arthritic feet are going to carry me over six mountain passes (we're starting at Muir Trail Ranch in the middle, there), with one being the highest peak in the contiguous US.

14,495 feet? Don't say crazy things, map.
So, yay for my orthotics? And the Advil, Aleve and migraine inhalers busting out of the seams of our first aid kit? And a lot of booze?

Yes, yay for those things.

And also spreadsheet planners, maps, new bosses that are totally OK with their new employees ditching out on work for two weeks when they've only been working for a month, super helpful neighbor/co-backpackers that planned most everything else about this trip, friends who are watching the dog/cat/fish/house, other friends who are driving us to the trailhead, other OTHER friends letting us stay in their cabin the night before so that we don't have to camp at the trailhead for an early morning start, neighbor's wives who are picking us up at the end and, you know - a lot of things are yay.

As it turns out, it takes a fucking village to allow three people to leave life for two weeks to walk around in the woods.

Like morons.

Or at least that's how that sentence keeps coming out of people's mouths.

So yeah, that's happening.

Not really a farmer yet

I started my first job as a farmer and IT'S FUCKING AWESOME I LOVE IT and soon hopefully I will have an actual crop growing so that I can actually farm. 

Because, right now, what I'm doing is a lot more like planning to farm than actual farming. It's a lot of strategy and system design and plant nerdy nonsense that I won't bore you with (though, if you're into bio-mechanical filtration, I can talk at length. I'm sure you're interested so don't all email me at once.), but since all of our other farmers are farming their asses off, I get to see awesome shit like this on the daily.

Dry farmed tomatoes becoming FOR REALS.

Calendula fields for the edible flower packs.


And that's not the half of it. In fact, there's so many hundreds of acres more that YIKES. But it's rad. And not just because of the best perks in all of jobdom.

Why yes I WOULD like to fill up the passenger side of my car with whatever I want to pick from the farm.

And YES I DO have something to hold the first tomatoes of the season hold on while I use my hat.

I WOULD love a flat of padron peppers that are just too big for retail, thanks for asking!

Also some garlic and Napoletano basil because why not?

Yes. Yes I will take home a bouquet of basil.

And this flat of green beans that was left on my desk by the green bean fairy.
Which is weird but totally OK with me.

Just the best 10th anniversary ever is all

Meanwhile, Bubba and I celebrated our 10th anniversary last week and it was...incredible.

The man is super human in the ways of knowing me and how to make just a night out because we're about to go away for two weeks and have no time for anything else even though it's our 10th anniversary which is kind of a big one but oh well we'll do it up big next year or something super memorable and awesome even though it's just one night.

Like, he planned a dinner at a great place that wasn't too fancy so that I didn't have to stress about getting all dressed up after working like a maniac all day on the farm, but then didn't tell me where it was so that he could surprise me (I LOVE SURPRISES) and then told me we could get there whenever so that I didn't have to rush. 


Then he surprised me with an incredible gorgeous unbelievable anniversary ring even though we weren't going to do gifts because we have this big trip to go on and let's not worry about it.  And told me that we could sit and enjoy dinner and not rush because the surprise thing we were doing after dinner didn't have any time requirements.


Bubba's mysterious SURPRISE face. My drunk happy face. You recognize it.

THEN he surprised me with the surprise thing that turned out to be one of my favorite live musicians playing at one of my favorite outdoor venues and OH we have really great seats. 

John Hiatt, Montalvo Winery, warm summer night, Bubba...



WHO IS THIS FUCKING GUY? And, more importantly, how did I manage to talk him into sticking around for so long?

I must use this power elsewhere. But only for good! 

Ok, mostly for good.

Anyway, yeah - we're off to hike, fish and swim in high mountain lakes for two weeks, being a farmer is rad even though I'm not really farming yet and I love my Bubba even more at 10 years than I did at 1 year, even though I never would have thought it possible.

Let's hope this trip goes well and I don't have to, like, fight a bear or something, because it would be a real drag for things to start sucking after the rad month we just had.