Wednesday, July 27, 2016

One of the greatest things about summer, or six thousand feet of elevation gain in two days

One of the reasons we choose to live close to the wilderness is easy access to some of the world's most beautiful places.  Now that most of the snow has melted in the mountains we can go hiking, which is one of my great loves.  My husband Steve and I have dragged our children up mountains since they were little, and it shows.  They are strong hikers.

My sons and I did two hikes last week, with a total of 6,000 feet elevation gain and 16 miles of hiking.  Come with us, and I'll show you why we love these mountains so much.


The first hike was Green Mountain, leading to a fire lookout with a 360 degree view of a sea of mountains.  Highlights: the wildflowers, Mount Baker and Glacier Peak visible in the distance, and a small lake to jump into and cool off in.





I love these excursions with my sons.  They used to whine and complain about heat, sore muscles or mosquitoes before, but not any more.  Now, I don't have to cheerlead them up the mountain - in fact, they encourage me when my knees start hurting on the way down.

Our conversations are fun up here... miles and miles and hours and hours of walking leaves time for talking about things they don't usually talk about.  This time, the topic of conversation was about girls.  Very enlightening, indeed.  My boys are growing up.




Two days later the whole family went hiking, including our little six-year old daughter Eva and two of the boys' friends.  The hike was on the East side of the mountains, a one and a half hour drive over the Cascade Mountains and different climate.  We knew eight miles and 3,000 feet elevation gain would be very hard for Eva, but we decided to push her.

Little did we realize that the day would turn into a 91 degree scorcher.

All was well on the way up, where large Ponderosa Pines offered shade, and mountain views distracted us from the steep trail.


But the hike led into a brushy area where a wildfire had swept through, and the energy shifted.  It was hot, scratchy, overgrown, and a little creepy with all the burnt and dead trees.

Eva crashed.  We ate lunch huddled under a tree to find shade. The other kids were chipper. Eva wasn't. The end of the hike was 1/4 mile ahead, so we decided to push on, Steve carrying Eva.  She acted fine on top, running around with the other kids, and all was well again.






But then, on the way back, Eva started looking pale, refused to walk and threw up.  Poor thing had too much exertion and too much heat.  

Steve carried all 60 pounds of her down the mountain.  Four miles. 3,000 feet elevation drop.  On his back.  Without complaining.  

My husband is beyond amazing.  While I spend the walk down feeling guilty and concerned about my girl, he single-handedly, single-back-edly carried his daughter down the mountain.  My admiration for him (which already is pretty damn high) rose exponentially.  This man has been the rock and solid foundation of our family for 14 years, and he never complains.

Phew.

I'm a lucky woman, and so are our kids. 

Here are all of us resting on the way down.  Eva fell asleep on top of me.


When we got to the car in one piece (Halleluja!!!!) and drove to Mazama to get some drinks and treats, Eva threw up again and then perked up.  She drank a cherry soda and was transformed after that, chatting and happy.

The next day, she was back to her normal, energetic, exuberant self.

Lesson learned: it's okay to push kids physically, but don't do it in 91 degree weather, and make sure you have a mule person with you that can carry heat stroke victims.

Other news of the week:  The garden is producing tomatoes and lots of other veggies.  For dinner, I go "shopping" in the garden and make from-scratch meals with produce I just harvested minutes earlier.

Also, my kitchen is messier than ever, since we spend all our time outside.  Who has time to clean the dishes?




I will leave you with images with more natural beauty.  I took all of these pictures either in our garden or within a 20 minute walk from our house.  Really.




Tuesday, July 19, 2016

How to ferment and use garlic scapes

Have you ever seen the bizarre-looking, Doctor-Suess-like curly tops that grow on the stalks of hardneck garlic in the spring?  These are flower stalks the garlic plant sends upward to make babies (seeds), but if you are growing garlic for the fragrant bulbs in the ground, you should cut off these scapes so the bulbs can grow bigger instead of channeling their energy into reproducing.

Not that making babies is a waste of energy, but, you know... If you want big, fat garlic, you want to cut the scapes off.  

We grow enough garlic for our family of five to use all year round, share with friends, and also dehydrate a lot for garlic powder.  That's. A. Lot. Of. Garlic.



Many people like to use the scapes in stir fries to add some crunch and garlicky goodness.  It's easy: Just cut the scapes in bite-size pieces and throw them in with other veggies while cooking them.

You can also make garlic scape pesto.  Instead of basil, use garlic scapes, throw them in the blender with some olive oil, walnuts and sea salt, add parmesan and voila - you have an awesome meal!


Fermented Garlic Scapes


Our favorite way to consume garlic scapes is fermenting them, which yields a delicious, crunchy pickle-like treat - and it's good for you!

Everything fermented is fabulously healthy, as I teach in my online fermentation course.  

- Fermented foods preserve nutrients in food and break them down to a more digestible form, which helps you to absorb more of the nutrients in the food.

- Fermented foods are potent detoxifiers and contain much higher levels of probiotics than probiotic supplements, making them ideal for optimizing your gut flora, which helps to break down and eliminate heavy metals and other toxins from your body, strengthens your immune system, even lowers the risk for cancer.

How to make fermented garlic scapes


You can ferment the flower part, but make sure it's still tightly closed, otherwise it might spoil.

You need:

  • Enough garlic scapes to fit into a quart mason jar
  • 2 Tablespoons pickling salt
  • 3 cups filtered water (chlorine or fluouride in the water will mess with the fermentation process)
  • Mason jar with lid
  • Something to weigh down the scapes (could be a ziplock bag filled with water, a smaller jar, or a canning jar air lock)

Head into the garden and cut garlic scapes.  Enlist helpers, in this case two of my kids.  Basically, you are cutting it off where it starts to curl.  Or you can buy them at the farmer's market (the scapes, not the kids).


Gather enough scapes to fill one mason jar, or cut 'em all off and just double, or triple the recipe accordingly.


Rinse the scapes and cut off the woody, fibrous bottom part.

You can now either stuff them into the mason jar whole, in their curly gorgeousness, or trim them into small pieces.  We cut them into 2-inch pieces with scissors, because we can fit more of them into one jar that way.

I'm a lucky woman, because I have a bunch of helpers.  Below are my visiting in-laws who volunteered I coerced into helping me.



Dissolve salt in the (cold) water and pour this over the stalks in the mason jar.  Use  2 Tablespoons of pickling salt per 3 cups of water.

Weight down the scapes and make sure they are completely submersed in the brine. 

There are several ways to do this.  I use a smaller jar filled with water as a weight.  You can also use ziplock bags filled with water to weight things down.  Heck, some people use washed and sterilized rocks.  

Or if you want to be really safe and fancy, use a jar top air lock especially made for this purpose.  They're worth the investment, because they make everything foolproof and super easy.


Put a lid on the mason jar and let the jar sit at room temperature.  I like using plastic lids instead of the metal ones.  Put the jar somewhere out of direct sunlight, otherwise it will heat  up too much.  You want to put it where it doesn't get too hot or too cold, because this can slow down or spoil fermentation.

After a day or two, bubbles will start forming, which shows you that the fermentation process has begun.  This is exciting!

Day One:

Bubbles are already happening!  Woot, woot!


Day 2:

More bubbles!  It's working!  Can you tell I'm excited?


Day 3:

Things are really bubbling now!



I briefly loosen the lid once a day to release any trapped gases in the jar and also remove any scum that forms on the surface.  Check that the scapes are completely covered with brine.

When no more bubbles rise to the surface, fermentation is done.

Depending on the temperature of your house, fermentation can take from 3 to 7 days.

After fermentation is complete, you have to put the jar in the fridge.  It will last a long time in there, but I recommend eating the fermented garlic scapes within a six month time frame.


Now for the most important step of all: Taste testing.



It's a good thing there are always a gaggle of children at our house - our own  three kids and their friends.  I asked three teenage boys to taste-test, and I asked two little girls to do the same.  What better age groups than those to determine the quality of an obscure food like fermented garlic scapes?




All five kids agreed: they are good.  

In fact, when I served dinner (pork chops from our own pasture raised meat, salad, kale, potatoes and garlic from our garden), they wanted the fermented garlic scapes, too.  At the end of dinner, the jar was empty.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

A new thing. I think you'll like it!

So I came up with an idea, and I hope you'll like it.  Many of you have told me you love my pictures, and that you live vicariously through my family and our homestead.  It makes me happy to inspire, teach and empower people to live a simpler, more healthy, wholesome life.

Many people who follow me on Instagram (come over and follow me there, too!) love the short videos I post of scenes of our life, so I decided to do monthly short videos to recap each month, to highlight some special moments and give you a glimpse of what it's like to live like we do, connected with nature, joy, animals, and each other.

I made one for June!  It's very short but sweet, and you can watch it here on my youtube channel.

Let me know what you think!


Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The garden in July, and why we weren't made for California livin'...

Last week, my husband Steve and I attended Mastin Kipp's "Claim your Power" conference in Los Angeles, where we were supposed to discover what our purpose is.  We realized that


1) We are already very much in our power and living our purpose (yay us!)

2) We are not city folks.  Not at all.


Now I admit that Venice Beach, Los Angeles, is not for the faint of heart, what with its overstimulation, platinum-blonde-surgically-enhanced-people, and quite a few people on drugs.  Steve and I walked on the beach every day and could stomach about two hours of this scene, and then we had to go hide in our hotel room, staring at each other going "Woah!"




On the flight home, as soon as the plane approached Seattle with its lovely view of the mountains, evergreen trees, Puget Sound and islands, I teared up with gratitude to live in such a beautiful place.



And once we arrived at our homestead in the wilderness, my heart was whole again and overflowed with gratitude.  Another thing that's overflowing is our garden - the vegetables, fruits and flowers.



This is what we came home to:




Loaded-with-fruit-blueberry-bushes and kiwi vines in passionate embraces...




Cabbage forming heads - sauerkraut, here we come!


Figs getting ready to hit their peak...



Zucchinis happily bursting forth...



Garlic scapes curling into the sky, ready to be harvested for fermenting...



Borage making me happy every time I pass by it...


Onions and lettuce growing visibly every single day...



The goat barn being taken over by climbing clematis...




Flowers holding strong even after days of rain...



Goat babies growing up fast...



Kale and collards cranking...



Brassicas and winter squash taking over...



Borage, cilantro and calendula competing for space...



Beans blooming prettily, protected by netting because the (insert terrible swear words) deer seem to think they are a gourmet meal, to be stolen in the middle of the night...



Tomatoes setting fruit in the greenhouse...



Beets growing big enough to be eaten and soon to be pickled with honey and cinnamon...



Cucumber plants sizing up...


Apples getting redder...


Gorgeous hollyhock that's twice as tall as I am...


Flowers, flowers and more flowers, or should I say drugs for the hummingbirds!



Roses, roses, and more roses...  I can't believe they are still going so strong!



What's thriving in your life?

PS: I forgot to tell you that our garden got featured on the famous and wonderful Soulemama blog!