Snow pansies, in the snow

I blogged awhile ago about planting snow (or icicle) pansies this fall.  The guy selling them at the Yakima Farmer’s Market said they’d bloom in the snow.  I wasn’t sure about that, but they were pretty so I bought some to try.  I planted them in a half barrel, and now that we’ve had our first snowfall, which set a record for the amount of snow this early, I can tell you that my snow pansies really are OK in the snow.

Here’s what they looked like last night, after a day of snow:

Oh, you can’t see my pansies?  Neither can I.

The day warmed and the sun kind of came out.  As did the pansies.

So far, so good.  We’ll see how they continue to fare as winter sets in.


Squirrel work

Along with a bucket of carrots, I also brought home a pail of hazelnuts from work.    Hazelnut trees grow well in Oregon and Washington, and I am always happy to bring home any that are surplus.  So along with hitting the carrot jackpot, I also hit the hazelnut jackpot.  And the shallot jackpot, but that can be another post.

Enjoying the autumn sun, I sat out on the back deck and gently used a hammer to open the shells to remove the hazelnuts.  Lots of mess.  Good thing it was outside and I could just sweep all the pieces away.

All that work.  Here’s the reward:

Time to get baking some hazelnut biscotti.  Here’s a good recipe from a fellow blogger.

Putting the yard to bed for winter

The weather is getting cooler.  No killing frosts yet but mornings are chilly and the air has that nice clean feel about it that means it really is fall.

Which also means leaves to rake and garden beds to clean up.  The sprinkler system is blown out, the yard mowed for hopefully the last time before winter.

And newly planted pansies fill the planter on the back patio.  Wait.  Newly planted pansies in October?   Isn’t that a spring activity?

I noticed a nursery vendor at the Sunday Yakima Farmer’s Market had, along with the expected ornamental winter cabbage, “snow pansies”.  They looked so pretty I bought a few pots, planted them, and headed back a week later to buy some more.  They are supposed to be hardy enough to keep blooming until it gets quite cold, then be the first flowers blooming in the spring.  I read up about them and found that they aren’t recommended for containers, due to more less soil insulating the plants.  I’ll follow the advice to add some mulching to help.

We’ll see if they actually fill out a little before winter sets in.

As American as ….

…..Pear Pie.

Not what you expected from me, is it?  I work for an apple processor.  So this should be about apples. But, we also process a lot of pears.

Last week, I was working on a project with Bartlett pears that I collected from our bin yard.  I’d dragged in two 5 gallon buckets full, and peeled and cored them both by hand and using a mechanical peeler.  But the weird part is that my project needed the peels and cores, not the peeled pears.  So I dunked the peeled pears in a bucket of water with ascorbic acid to keep them from browning and asked around to see if anyone wanted any peeled and cored pears.  I found a few takers, including myself.

So last night I decided to bake a pear pie.  The first time I’d ever had a pear pie was some years ago when my friend Grace treated my family to dinner, and wowed us with this as a dessert.  Since then I’ve enjoyed things like spiced poached pears, served with oatmeal at of all places a Best Western along the Columbia River.  But I’d never made a pear pie until last night.

The pie was easy to put together.  Make a crust, slice up the already peeled and cored pears, then add some sugar, flour and cinnamon. I did get a little fancy and used a Nordic ware pie topper I bought last year for the top crust.

Here’s the kind of design it makes.  This isn’t my pie, as I forget to get out my camera.  Instead of taking a photo, Dave and I just helped ourselves to a piece of warm pear pie, and the another. But mine looked pretty similar, except for the color of the fruit.   By afternoon today the pie was history.

The Fruits of the Yakima Valley. Once again, always a delight.

Stay hungry. Stay foolish.

My reading on the internet last night brought news of the death of Steve Jobs, founder of Apple computers.  I am writing this on my old workhorse eMac computer.  My Macbook is nearby, also used daily.  Our original iMac “died” some years ago, but was in some ways my favorite due to it’s bright orange color and bubble shape.  Apple  brought to me an ease of using computers.  And fun!  Always “oh so wonderful”. Never a drudge.

Thanks, Steve.  You graduated from high school the same year I did, even though you were born a year later than I was.  So I  consider you a class mate of sorts, in our journey through life.

I liked the line from the Whole Earth Catalog that Steve Jobs quoted in a commencement speech a few years ago.   It was on the last page of the last issue.   “Stay hungry.  Stay foolish”.

“Stay hungry.”  That’s what keeps me thinking and sometimes writing  about food and nutrition and cooking and gardening and on and on.  And about life.

“Stay foolish”.  That’s what keeps giving me joy as I hike in the mountains and giggle with friends and family.

Peace to all of you.

What more is there to say?  (except maybe try to get back to blogging and being foolish a little more often???)

The mountains are calling

“The mountains are calling and I must go”. John Muir

It’s been a cool summer so far. A pocket of unseasonably cold weather got stuck in the Pacific Northwest while the rest of the country has been sweltering. And that’s just fine with me, as I don’t like baking heat. But I do love hiking in the mountains. And you can’t really get out hiking at higher elevations (where the mountains are….) until most of the snow melts. Normally by mid July we’re able to get to most of our favorite trails. Not this year. I’ve been impatiently waiting, and when an outdoors writer for the Seattle Times published an article this week titled “Too much snow on your favorite flower trail? Here are 5 hikes you can do now, with blooms aplenty”
it seemed like she was speaking to me saying “time to go”. She mentioned a trail at the east entrance to Mount Rainier National Park where we hike most every year. As the weather predictions called for Yakima to hit 90 degrees today, we thought it was a good day to head for the hills. I watched the temperature monitor on the car drop as we drove higher. By the time we reached the parking lot for the Sheep Lake trailhead, it read 54 degrees. Hey, that sounds familiar. Kind of like the temperature for most of our visit last week to the ocean. Not only was it cool, but the parking lot indicated lots of reasons to be concerned about this “snow free” hike.

We put on our fleece jackets and packs, grabbed out hiking poles and left the car. A forest service employee was greeting people at the trailhead, making sure they knew there were many sections with lots of deep snow and obscured trail. We felt pretty well prepared so we headed off into snow. Early on the trail changed to snow free for awhile and we were delighted with gorgeous wild flower displays. Notice how the flowers are blooming as soon as the snow melts.

In snow free areas, flower displays were colorful and thick.

Also, lots of majestic vistas.

And many sections where we were left wondering just where the trail was.

While the pace was slower than normal due to all the snow, we did reach the lake. And warmed up considerably while getting there. However, we decided not to continue onto Sourdough Gap as we usually do. Just too much snow.

So, what does this have to do with being a food scientist and food? Lots, I think. No recipes today, nor photos of food being prepared. Instead another quote from John Muir to end this post.

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in where nature may heal and cheer and give strength to the body and soul.”

birch bark madness

We just passed the date for the annual wine bottling party with my wine making group. Unfortunately, Dave and I had another “engagement”, raising funds for a conservancy group’s land along the Yakima River Canyon. But I “paid my bucks” and got my wine. It came to $50 for 41 bottles of home made wine this year. Now, is that extravagant or what? We have Trader Joe’s “Two Buck Chuck” beat by a long shot.

Here’s the best part of all. The wine is fine (and I’m a poet, if you didn’t notice). But some of the labels this year were beyond fine. Last year we peeled off some birch bark at the vineyard, and thought it might lend itself to some very nice home made labels. And this year we made it happen. The first attempt was a failure. The iron on transfers did NOT work. But with a lot of messing around, we ran pre-cut pieces of birch bark through a printer and ….. Success!!!

Look closely. Admire deeply. Handcrafted. These really are birch bark, not paper. Unique? Yes, I think so. Don’t you wish you were part of my wine group?

Back in the saddle again

Whoa! It’s been quite a break I’ve taken from blogging. Three months since I last checked in. I must have fallen off my horse and it’s time for me to get back on, in true Western fashion. So, whether or not I have much of interest to share, I’m back. Blogging and rattling on about things of consequence or little consequence.

This past weekend we attended a fundraising event for a conservancy group trying to buy up some land along the Yakima River a little ways north of Selah, where we live. It’s prime territory for mountain sheep and without protection will be privately owned and off limits to recreational users like me. And maybe the sheep?

The event was, ironically to me, held at a private resort along the Yakima River that has been developed in the past few years. It’s a lovely spot, and has a very appealing lodge. One of those places that calls out my lack of truthfulness when making comments like “oh, I don’t really want the things that a lot of money buys….”. The weather cooperated fully for the event. Not the baking hot desert temperatures that we often already have at this time of year, but very pleasant in the mid ’70’s with a nice gentle breeze. Ahh.

The event started with a wine tasting by a Washington state winery named Frenchman Hills. The owner did an interesting on the spot blending of three different red wines to produce a very pleasant wine. An outdoor dinner on the lawns adjoining the river came next. The menu featured roast pig (from a nearby pit), roast chicken, a quinoa salad, green salad with lots of local ingredients, corn bread with honey butter, apple or rhubarb strawberry crisp with local ice cream….. on and on. Wonderful food, with encouragement to return for seconds and thirds. The roast pig, with accompanying flavorful sauce, was wonderful and I did return multiple times. Just never know when that will be on the menu again so I’d better enjoy it while I can!

After dinner, Dan Evans, who was governor of Washington state in the 60’s and 70’s when the Yakima River Canyon highway was officially designated a “Byway”, spoke. He was spry and fit looking, and seemed delighted to be able to make the drive with his wife from Seattle over to the Yakima River for the event.

Then the live Celtic music began, and we luxuriated in the view from the deck while enjoying the music.

We watched, but didn’t participate in, the fly fishing demonstrations. However, when we discovered the firepit near the river with glowing coals and all the fixings for s’mores on benches, including marshmallow sticks, we did find ourselves enjoying one last culinary delight before heading home.

Road Kill for Vegans

We made a trip this past week from Central Washington to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Beautiful destination! Lots of open road on the way. We drove, and much of the route was familiar. Many years ago (three decades!) we lived in SouthWestern Idaho in Weiser, Idaho. But the drive through SouthEastern Idaho included some new spots.

I noticed as we approached Idaho Falls that there were a lot of potatoes on the side of the highway. Not just an isolated spill from a truck, but a continuous path of potatoes off the road. I didn’t pull over and collect them, but the thought did cross my mind that if you wanted to, you could certainly feed yourself. So many potatoes. Just waiting to turn into hash browns, scalloped potatoes, mashed potatoes, french fries. And so much easier to think about that other road kill. I also noticed a few onions, just waiting to add to the menu.

Am I weird? Or do others also notice the vegetarian “road kill” as they drive along. The Yakima Valley where we live often has apples along the side of the road. What culinary delights do you find on the roadside on your drives?

Sues’ Sukiyaki Sunday

Great name for food, isn’t it? Sukiyaki. It starts with my name! But that’s not all there is to like about it. It also tastes good.

A Buddhist church in the lower Yakima valley has an annual tradition of holding a sukiyaki dinner every March as a fund raiser. The congregation is getting older and dwindling in size, but continues to hold the sukiyaki dinner with the assistance of many community volunteers. This year was the 50th anniversary. That’s a lot of sukiyaki prepared and eaten over the years.

We’ve attended other years, and headed down to Wapato on Sunday to continue our tradition of attending. The hall where the dinner is held was festively decorated with many rows of tables for the 1,500 anticipated diners over the course of the afternoon.

We were seated almost immediately and first relished the cucumber salad brought out by the teens volunteering to help serve. Dave and several others asked for a fork. I used chopsticks, remembering as I fumbled with them words of friends who went to China some years ago to teach. They were both large individuals, but when we saw them on a visit to the states after a year in China, they had slimmed down. They called it “diet by chopsticks”. After finishing the salad, individual plates of sukiyaki were brought out, accompanied by large communally served pots of steamed rice. Tea was also served.

I found it interesting to look around and see that one side of the hall was lined with tables, all set up with high countertops holding large trays of cut up celery, onions, beef and other ingredients, and volunteer cooks standing at electric fry pans, steam rising around them as the food was prepared just yards away from where we ate.

After we ate, I gazed at the hundreds of origami cranes adorning the stage and other areas of the room.

It brought to mind when my children were young and they struggled to create origami cranes also. I liked the memory, and how it brought together different times in my life. I never was very good at making the folds in the paper. I suspect I would be good at making sukiyaki. But I’m just as happy to eat it instead, contributing both my appetite and dollars to the Wapato Buddhist church funds.