Monday, August 30, 2010

Backcountry birthday

Before I get into the nitty gritty awesomeness of my birthday backpacking weekend, I will first tell you that I didn't manage to check every GIMME GIMME item of backcountry wonder off my wish list and that's OK.

I'd sit here and let you guess at what didn't happen, but I don't have that kind of time, so I'll just tell you that SHOCKER I did not catch a million (read: not one) trout or get in any creek swimming because I suck and it was too cold, respectively.

You might wonder how it could be too cold in Yosemite in August and you wouldn't be alone because I was pretty much wondering at that fact all weekend.

I'm wearing a fleece in August? What the hell, man.

But whatever - when camping, one must wear appropriate clothing for the climate and, even though it was August when I was packing, I knew that night time temps in the 40s were cool enough for me to want my woobie fleece. Therefore, I packed it and then wore it when it got down to such temps. Unfortunately, it dropped to those temps before the sun went down and so YAY I was wearing my fleece while fishing and dipping my feet into the lake.

Um, weird.

As far as the sans-trout status of our adventures go, well, that's most likely attributable to my limited time on the water due to cave hunting (when we thought it was going to rain. Yay.) and/or my lack of "special tricks".

See, we wound up talking briefly with some incredible douchebag at the trailhead as we finished our trip and he swore he caught 11 trout because of the "special tricks" he knew. I think he caught zero fish and his special trick is his ability to convince the bigger douchebags around him that he'd caught fish, but what do I know, I didn't catch any fish.

Perhaps I'm deficient in "special tricks" or just in douchebag friends that will back up my incredible claims while ignoring my impressive douchebaggery - I'm just not sure.

Anyway, many things were checked off my backcountry wish list of wonderment and those things were...

Hiking as fast as my little legs could carry me:

As I descend into the apparent Jurassic Park jungle of Yosemite.

Watching Bubba play a million backcountry pranks:

Bigfoot, is that you?
That's what we call, Catching a Rock Trout
Bubba's fire poking stick, Jimmy, making an appearance in all photos.

Testing out the new bivy bags:

Rock wall view

Valley and sunset view

Having backcountry cocktails:

Yep, that's a lemon wedge in my "Cocktail" Nalgene
By the end of the evening, this was empty.
Of course we had cocktail snacks. What are we, animals? No.

Building the perfect campfire:

This was a conveniently shaped log.

And basically watching Bubba revert to his backcountry roots to entertain me:

He'll do anything for a laugh.
Which I appreciate because who else is going to make dehydrated food funny? No one, that's who.
And who else would think up, "Tiny Pinies"? No one but Bubba.

So I guess you could say that our backpacking birthday trip was a success since I laughed until my sides hurt, got to put my feet back in the creek that I'd been dreaming about since last year, didn't have to sit out a rain storm in a cave shared with a bear, got to sleep in my new bivy under the moon and stars and continued to feel good and kick considerable ass on the hike.

For the record, backpacking is still the best reason to keep running.

We were so stoked on our Yippee It Didn't Rain On Us Even Though We Didn't Bring the Rain Fly trip that we took this picture and weren't even sarcastic with our smiling.

Legitimate Happy

And then I turned back to look over the lake only to hear Bubba go, "Aw, fuck." in that way that I know we have encountered something that is going to put a big crimp in our plans.

At first I thought he'd forgotten something waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay back at the campsite and we were going to go hiking back to get it, but no, it was this gem:


Our post-backpacking burgers and beers were just extra delicious afterward. I guess. It's how we chose to look at things anyway.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Should Be A National Holiday ALERT!

In case you don't have it marked on your calendars for some reason (SHAME), my birthday is this weekend and you know that means I'm about thisclose to blowing town.

This year, we're heading off into the granite and creeks and forests of Yosemite, wherein I plan to drink gin from a backpacking flask ("backpacking" in that it's small and lightweight, though adding a fifth of gin to it sort of ruins the lightweightness of it, but...), sleep under the stars in my new bivy bag (last year's birthday gift from Bubba), swim in the creek, fly fish on the lake and eat dehydrated chili mac from the Backpacker's Pantry of Hell.

Then I will come home and eat every leafy green in our house, ifyaknowwhatImean. Mmhhmm. You know.

I'll also be hiking as fast as my little legs can carry me to burn off the Giant Birthday Cupcake provided by my hysterical coworkers. These freaks are pretty awesome. In the margaritas for lunch and off-color jokes taped up all over my office and giant cupcake ways of awesomeness.

And, yes, that is a beehive honey pot birthday pressie. Cute, guys.
Then I hope to come back here and tell you all about how I got my fill of summer creek swimming and starry night watching and how I caught a million trout but had to throw them all back because it's catch and release only.

Thankfully that leaves me room

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A different kind of fun with watermelons. You know what I'm talking about. Nasty.

In case you're not already convinced that Bubba and I are complete freaks when left unsupervised in our own home, we're now trying to grow a square watermelon.


Hmmm...why NOT?

Our thinking is this - we have a lot of watermelons on the plants right now and they grow into weird shapes on their own so why not try to create a shape that would be useful or at least emulate a shape that is useful for melons in foreign countries.


Yeah, I know. It sounds like something a crazy person might say. And to that I say, "Welcome!"

We're a bit mad over here, this is true.

Basically, Bubba saw a square watermelon for sale for $100 in Japan once and never could get it out of his head. I guess the idea was that it fit super efficiently into small Japanese refrigerators and the Japanese are so watermelon hungry while also being so strapped for refrigeration space that they'll throw down a C-note for a melon. Well, then he started dating a gardener and eventually married her and every year she grew watermelons he made some vague reference to, "wouldn't it be cool if we grew square watermelons and then sold them for $100?"

In case you're not good at following along or have ended up here unbeknownst to your own self, *I* am that gardener and now we're growing square watermelons.

No, really.

To be clear, by "growing" I mean that there was a medium sized watermelon growing all normal and round on the vine and then we sneaked a box (hand built by Bubba to his future melon's specifications) under its rear end in the hopes that it would grow out to the box's boundaries and then begin to grow to fill the box's square shape.

Super normal looking, except for the box.

Well, as fucked up as that all sounds, it appears to be working.

I believe this is called "growing to fit one's boundaries".
So, once we saw that the melon would grow to the shape of the box and then HOLY it continued also growing taller - nearing the top of the box - Bubba built a lid for it so that it would be square all the way around and not just on its sides.

Yep. This is what giant children do when left to entertain themselves.
So, now we have a watermelon growing - hopefully into a square shape - inside of this box in our yard. I have no idea if this is going to work or if we're just going to have a box filled with watermelon goo when we unscrew the lid, but I guess we'll see.

For now, I just look through the peep hole on the top and hope to not see anything gross or suspicious looking.

I feel sort of rude always looking in the hole. Is that weird?
I'm not sure if we'll do anything special with the square melon, in the event that it turns out to actually grow into a square shape and be edible, but I imagine we'll take photos to show you guys and then probably slice it open to see if the actual watermelon flesh grew also into a square.

Though I sort of doubt that part. But can you imagine if it did? Super fun!

I also bet we'll put it in our fridge just to enjoy the experience of having a super efficiently shaped melon to look at when we go in there for tonic. And for whoever it was that was worried about the chemicals in my Diet Tonic, I just want to say that I don't know what's in my Diet Tonic and I don't care because I've spent up all my Caring energy on avoiding crazy ass shit that's in produce, beef, eggs and chicken. So, until there's a FDA recall on Diet Tonic, I'm not going to strain myself.

And, hey, I don't drink soda aside from the Diet Tonic that goes into my cocktails (for fear of the Fatness, don't forget), so I'm ingesting only a tiny percentage of the chemicals that most Americans take in during the course of a normal day. This makes me feel better about this decision of mine anyway.

Oh, and if you're for some reason wondering whether we're going to try to actually sell a watermelon for $100 - no. We're not. Though we're open to offers.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Harvesting While Drinking.

On Friday afternoon I got to indulge in my favorite activity: harvesting while drinking.

Looks just like it sounds.

Honestly, I hadn't identified this as My Favorite Activity until I realized that I'd been looking forward to it all week and then sat and indulged in it for a solid hour and decided that anything that satisfying deserved to be categorized as its own activity rather than just That Thing I Do So That I'm Not Just Staring Off Into Space While I Drink.

Much like one might call sewing, skiing or collecting cat figurines an activity - I call Harvesting While Drinking an activity. And I think we can agree it's at least cooler than adding a new porcelain calico to a curio cabinet.

Kitty Cat Figurine Collectors of the world - do not leave me a comment about your boring ass hobby. It will not change my mind and I will publicly berate you. Just a heads up.

About my new favorite activity though...

Early Friday evening I headed out to the garden with my G&T while Bubba biked off to the store for something I can't remember, and I did what I usually do in that situation - I trolled the garden looking for Idontknowwhat.

You see, I can't just sit down and stare at the wall and drink my cocktail because that seems unproductive, so in lieu of doing something that's obviously nothing (ie. staring at the wall), I instead wander aimlessly through the garden while I sip away and my mind drifts. If anyone were to ask me what the hell I was doing (though, come to think of it, no one does) I could just say something impressive sounding like, "Inspecting the plants for destructive pathogens" or "Scaring squirrels out of my garden with The Force" or something like that.

And who can criticize someone for the obviously ingenious use of The Force in organic gardening? No one, that's who. And they might even be impressed that I'd harnessed the power of gin to aid in gardening via The Force.

So, anyway, my aimless wandering and its vague premise keep me from looking like a near-catatonic alcoholic and then sometimes I actually DO something like pick a tomato.


Well, last Friday I did more than just pick a tomato and that is how I realized I could combine two independent and mostly mindless activities into one great and awesome activity that will heretofore be recognized as Harvesting While Drinking.

It may sound vaguely felonious, but I assure you it's safe and doesn't violate any federal laws.

Goes like this:

Mix yourself up a nice cocktail. I chose a Magellan Gin & Diet Tonic with lime. You do what you like.

It's blue like the sea. Which goes with the fish on the glass. And this is where my  mind goes when I'm "Harvesting While Drinking". 

Wander out to the garden with the intention of doing nothing, but still carry a basket with you.

Take a few laps around the garden just soaking in the greenness of it all and thinking about nothing more than HOLY SHIT LOOK HOW BIG THAT SPIDER IS.

Sip the cocktail.

Sit down and decide you're going to see how many Mexican Sour Gherkin cucumbers (or whatever veg you have in abundance) there are.

Final tally: 1 million

Sip the cocktail.

Pick them all.

Sip the cocktail.

Then start to root around under the pickling cucumber to see if there are any you missed on your last pass.

Sip the cocktail.

Find one the size of a baseball bat and two normal sized ones.

I'm barely exaggerating about the baseball bat one.
Sip the cocktail.

Move on to the beans because if you've already picked two kinds of cucumbers and located the spiders then you might as well do some real harvesting.

Sip the cocktail.

Pick a pound of beans. Admire the pink blossoms.

Sometimes they look purple.
Sip the cocktail.

Decide it's probably time to see if that big heirloom tomato is really the 2 pounder you've been waiting for. Pick it and weigh it.

1 lb 13 ounces. Damn.

Sip the cocktail.

Decide you might as well clear the tomato plants of any ripe ones so that they can get started on the second batch of tomatoes before Real Fall arrives.

Sip the cocktail.

Pick almost 9 lbs of tomatoes and leave them on the picnic table while you go hunt for a bucket big enough for all that stuff.

Sip the cocktail.

Return with the galvanized bucket you use for drinks when you have company because it's the biggest container you have that's not disgusting and fill it to the brim.

Finish the cocktail, take a bunch of pictures, tell the Internet about your ridiculous life and make fun of crazy figurine collectors.

Make that crazy CAT figurine collectors.


So, now you get what I'm talking about. As though the concept of Harvesting While Drinking was a really obscure one. And you should also know that there was a fantasy that predicated this whole event and that fantasy was Wouldn't It Be Super Cute To Have Tiny Watermelon-Looking Cucumber Pickles?

That can be a fantasy. Don't tell me my business.

So, after I picked all one million or so Mexican Sour Gherkins, I marched off to the kitchen and put them in some pickling brine I'd made special and set aside (read: had left over and couldn't throw away).

And, damn it all, if those aren't the cutest pickles I've ever seen.

There were extras, so I made this creepy looking combo.

Plus, don't you know I had to figure out what to do with the 9+ lbs of tomatoes I suddenly had on hand, so made plans to spend some QT with the oven and ended up with 6 dinner's worth of The Best Tomato Sauce Ever. Yep.

Plus a tomato salad, tomato sandwiches and gifts for my tomato loving coworkers. Lucky bastards.
So, that's all. If you see me wandering around the yard with a drink, you'll know what I'm doing. And you should bring out the big bucket for the harvesting that will inevitably happen. And ICE! I always need more ice.

Friday, August 20, 2010

I'm either The Stig, the comic book alien from Back to the Future, a Beastie Boy or a beekeeper. You decide.

I'm sorry. Did I not tell you I'm getting bees?

I could have sworn I'd told you.

Well, I guess that's what happens when you get all nuts about taking a beekeeping class, thinking you'll be able to immediately apply your knowledge to a hive of your very own only to realize during the class that, oh, midsummer isn't the best time to go about installing your new hive.

Unless you want to capture a swarm. Which I did not.

No, I'm going to go the old-fashioned (read: scaredy-cat, by-the-book) route and set up my hive in the winter and order a package of bees to arrive in spring.

That way, I can be a total A/R psycho about setting up the hive just right and painting it just right and then staring at it just right so that when the bees show up and scare the ever-loving crap out of the folks at the post office (who totally deserve it for their behavior last time I was in there), I'll have envisioned their homecoming so many times that I won't forget any important part of the process like, you know, loading Bubba up with a hundred epi pens before their arrival.

Because, yes, Bubba is allergic to bees. And, yes, as a doting and devoted wife, I'm treating him to a truckload of epi pens and then, later, a private honey-dipped show about which I shall spare you the details.

Sure, my MiL would prefer I just forgo the idea of keeping bees within 1,000 yards of her son, but if he's going to be all, "Whatever, babe - I'll be fine - I'll just take pictures of you from inside the house where I'll be wearing your bee suit. Go for it! This is going to be awesome!", then I'm not going to be the one to ruin his good and misplaced fun.

I love that Bubba is the perfect blend of reckless, supportive and adventurous. It makes for some entertaining times at our house which, HEY!, don't always include bleeding or tetanus shots. And, if we do this right, also won't involve a call to 911 that includes the words "swelling" or "can't breathe".

Though, from my recent experience checking on active hives, I sort of doubt he'll have any issues. See, we have hives at work and since I'm really working hard on my Bee Nerd To The Stars reputation, I have volunteered to do hive checks and not during any one of these checks has anyone gotten stung. Nor has anyone who's wandered past the hives or been within any distance of the hives been stung. And even though I have a full suit and should be wearing it at least for the fashion statement, I don't, so it's not like I'm out there in a hermetically sealed polyester suit of armor fending off the pointy advances of buzzing bees.

Statement being: "Take me to your leader."

See, these suits are muther effing hot. In the temperature sense. And even though it's barely summer around here, putting on a full poly suit over my work clothes to go lift heavy (with honey!!) supers off the hives and check all those frames is really sweaty.

So instead, I put on my jacket/veil combo and go around looking only like half a nerd.

The nerdy half. My officemate couldn't get to her camera fast enough.

Though, yesterday, my bottom half not covered by any bee wear was actually a pair of ripped skinny jeans, so I'm fairly certain I looked like some variety of nerd, though not specifically a bee one.

Make sense? I doubt it. Not important.

So, why am I here telling you all about my bee love even though I don't have a hive yet? So you can all get excited with me of course! And also so that you can prepare yourselves for the beeblahblahblah that will inevitably start next spring when I get the bees, install them in the hive, open the hive for the first time, see a bee on any of my vegetable plants, have to call the ambulance, accidentally swallow one during cocktail time, etc.

You see where this is going, right? It'll be like all the gardeningblahblahblah that spills out here, except it will be a lot heavier with words like "pollinate", "frames", "hive", "honey" and "HOLY SHIT LOOK HOW MANY APPLES WE HAVE". If one can be hopeful, anyway.

Want to know what will not be included in the beeblahblahblah? Stupid, hackneyed, cheesy, cliche bee terms swapped out for regular words OR regular words morphed into unrecognizable forms of their former selves to accommodate a bee term. Because I hate that shit with the fire of a thousand burning suns.

Don't know what I'm losing my shit over? Allow me to offer a few examples and just see if you don't start to cringe, grind your teeth and look for the nearest dull object to shove in your eyes:
  • What's all the BUZZ about?
  • I'm keeBEEing BUZZy
  • I couldn't BEE hapBEEier
OK, I can't write any more. It's too douchey. I'm starting to hate myself even with just those three examples. But you get what I mean, and so you can now know the kind of torture I'm sparing you. You're welcome. And, as an added bonus, I'll probably be upping the swears quite a bit, so the Finny you've come to endure will not go missing just because of the arrival of 30,000 fuzzy vegetable pollinating honey makers.

Though, can you imagine if I actually do this correctly and then can harvest actual Fruit of My Garden's Loins honey from my very own hive?

Yeah, I know - I'll probably shit myself with delight. Look forward to that, will you.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Panic cooking

Anyone else scared of their crisper right now? Because I am. And I'm imagining that all of you reading that first question are now raising your hands and waving them around - maybe even propping up your arm with your other hand to make it higher in the air like you would if you were a 2nd grader who finally had the answer or really had to go to the bathroom.

Sometimes I reminisce about my school age years, so what.

Anyway - I'm scared of the crisper and the garden right now because all of it's full. All the time. Even after I make a big meatless dinner and fill up the kitchen composter with the dinner-makin' scraps and then give a bunch of vegetables to the cleaning lady and take a big sack of stuff to work.

It's like the mail, remember like I said, it doesn't stop.

But, thankfully we have to eat every day and thankfully Bubba will eat whatever I make even when it's poisonous, so slowly but surely we're digging ourselves out from beneath this ever-growing pile of produce.

I know. I make mundane shit seem really dramatic. It's a talent I've cultivated over many unglamorous years.

That aside, here's some stuff I've made and things I've done lately to save us from complete takeover from the invasive monsters known as tomatoes, watermelons, peppers, beans, strawberries, tomatillos and cucumbers.

And because I'm super nice, I linked to recipes that you can print. See mom, I can do nice things.

Panzanella (I didn't add cucumber)
Bonus: It uses up stale leftover bread from Book Club.

This was only my first of three consecutive servings because I'm a whore for this salad.

Spicy Tomato Pie with Sausage 
Bonus: It uses a lot of tomatoes and, if you have a basil plant bushing out beyond its borders, you can make homemade pesto and really clear out some garden space.

This is my favorite thing to eat all year. Really, now.

Vietnamese Stuffed Tomatoes
Bonus: If you make hamburgers one night, you can use leftover burgers for the filling. And bell peppers. And when you have extra filling, you can use it for spring roll filling the next night. Like, tonight for instance.

The sauce on top might look gloopy but it's GOOD.

Canning them to my heart's (and cupboard's) content
Bonus: If you have lemon trees nearby, you can bypass the weird "bottled lemon juice" part of this recipe. And then it will look super cute in your cupboard. Not because of the lemon juice but because of the jars. You know what I mean.

That one in the middle is the cutest. Two tomatoes stuffed in there whole. I'm proud of myself - shuttup.

Yeah. So, I didn't make a recipe so much as I cut one open, found that it wasn't ripe yet, cut up half of it into cubes and scarfed its light-pink likeness to watermelon while watching Arrested Development with Bubba. It's still good that way even if you don't do fancy things with it and even though it's not properly ripe yet.

And do you like that I have a book about melons? Random.

No, I didn't pickle the rinds. I'm not that desperate for a project yet. Yet.

Peppers, I am just adding them to everything. Including the Panzanella and Stuffed Tomatoes up there. Enjoy that.

No new recipes here, but I have found that a cleverly positioned guilt trip on a manager can go a long way toward making a 2 lb bag of beans disappear. Same goes for a cleaning lady who "loves all vegetables". Bless her. She says she doesn't "do yard work", but I've found a way to make that happen. Sneaky bitch, that I am.

I still do my own harvesting, though.

Brown Sugar Strawberry Tart

Mine looks not as awesome as the recipe's, but it still tasted way good.

Salsa Verde
I may have accidentally made this very spicy. Which will be fun to hear about after I give it as gifts and all those people file restraining orders against me and my canned goods.
I likey spicy.

Mexican Tomatillo and Avocado Soup
Yeah. This soup was, I believe I called it - "HERBY". Because it was. Lots of oregano in there and I also added a lot of cilantro that was bolting in the garden. Plus the onions were very fresh and bright and the tomatillos aren't cooked so they're very green tasting and voila - it was herby. Proceed with caution.

I can say, "Chillin'" without any irony, here.

This year I'm pickling anything that stands still. And, to me, pickling cucumbers means making either kosher or sour dills rather than that filthy sweet phenomenon known as bread and butter which I find repulsive and an affront to the pickle eating community.

You don't want to offend these pickles.

Seriously. That's gross.

That is 15 cups of future relish, right there.

So far I've made dill spears, dill chips and dill relish from the pickling cucumbers and soon (heat willing) I'll make whole dills and Mexican Sour Gherkin Mini Watermelon dills. Just imagine these all packed into a jar with a hundred of their friends and a sour dill brine. Cute and delicious, I'd say.

Definitely cute. They're deliciousness is yet to be determined.

I use my handy and lewd sounding Ball Blue canning book for all my canning and a variation of this recipe for my dill pickles. The variation being that I use Mrs. Wages spice packet rather than the Ball one because I've never seen the Ball packet anywhere and already feel like a pickling failure for not using just the dill I've got around the house.

To even the score, I use a blue canner. That makes things fair, right?

For the relish, though, I did mix my own spices and those were dill seed and turmeric, so it wasn't too imaginative. Less cheating though, which I feel is a personal triumph.

This didn't taste like cheating. It tasted like, "Where's my muther effing hot dog?"

Hopefully this post will help someone who's currently gasping for air from below a two story pile of vegetables, but even if it doesn't, I will be satisfied because I got to post this photo of the prettiest tomato so far:

And this photo of the largest tomato so far:

1 pound 13 ounces of sweet tomato love, right there.

If you haven't checked the Garden Tracker lately (or ever? What's the matter with you?), we're about 1/4 of the way to last year's final total of 200+ lbs.

That's a lot of freaking out left to do. Look forward to that.