Saturday, February 25, 2006

Visa Card and The American Dream

I can't say when it exactly started, but I know exactly when it ended. May 1998. It all came to a screeching halt when I bought my shiny red, jacked-up, over-sized mud tired, awesome looking, pile of crap for $4,000 most people would call a Jeep. I bought it with a credit card check. Back then, it ran me 18% interest. I think that old beast ran about 18% of the time too. It came as an epiphany to me soon after I bought the form of a credit card bill. I realized suddenly I had $30,000 in credit card debts. I bought (charged) things according to how much the minimum payments would be, not if I could afford it. It suddenly occured to me that a pimply 15 year old flipping burgers at McDonald's for minimum wage actually made more money than me. He might take home $150 a week. I had $100 a month after bills. That's for gas, food, shampoo, etc. Now, I don't have any excuses either. I graduated from university with a degree in business. Took classes in investing, budgeting, and accounting even. Procrastination and the need for instant gratification doomed me.

I realized my life was that crappy Jeep. Sharp, good-looking, and cool on the outside (I thought); nothing but shit and promises on the inside. I was more concerned with trying to look the american dream than with trying to live it. My back was against the wall right there and then. Anything would have broken me then. I decided to give myself six months to start turning my life around--then file bankruptcy if I couldn't. But there was a catch. If I paid it all, I would take an epic road trip. One I've dreamed of all my life. I would go on a Great North American Roadtrip, ending in Alaska. I buckled up, moved out of my townhouse and rented one room. I vowed celibacy until debt free. I sold all my stereo equipment, television, etc. I knew nothing around me was mine. I wrote out all my bills and their amounts in a notebook, I knew how much I owed to each, and I attacked. That first $1000 I took off took forever, but it happened. And I was excited. Another $1000, and another. Faster and faster it came down, I didn't care about ANYTHING else but dropping it another $1000. A little over 2 years later, it was over. I was victorious. The single most crowning achievement I have ever done. I not only got out of debt, I awakened to a new life, and became someone I could be proud of. And if you ask me sometime, I might tell you of Alaska.

tetons '99

I found an old two-tracker on the way to yellowstone I just couldn't resist. Blame it on the idolization of Indiana Jones as a kid, always adventuring, anxious to see around the next corner. Unplanned, unexpected and free, this place is still among the best campsites I've ever been to. The Tetons in the distance, a pond nearby, coyotes howling, skeletal remains of an elk found, sage grouse passing by, and no one else anywhere in sight. Beautiful. I still remember cresting over the hill and seeing the tetons for the first time. Wonder if I could find it ever again?

Friday, February 24, 2006

snowy range mountains '99

Thursday evening, 9/9/1999

Throwing our packs on our backs for our first backpacking event of the west, we hiked a half mile across a meadow, strewn with ghost-white rocks, pink boulders, scores of wildflowers, and a true sight to behold above us…the Snowy Range. Fish in the lake were literally leaping out of the water, many at a time, pleading me to bring them to the frying pan. Searching quickly in my pack, I noted I had forgotten my fishing rod in the car. The day was dying, so I must run back. So I turned and headed back, but something blood-curdling stopped me frozen. The distinct call of wolves sounded off a mere ½ mile away, and in the direction of the car. The calls were deep, and with purpose, growing closer together and closer to us. We dove in our tents, seeking protection in this remote land, miles from anyone. We crashed early, layering heavily for the imminent cold of mountain night. We listened to the eery howls of the wolves as they moved through. We listened to the distant bellow of bull elk sounding in the distance. And so we settled on a chilling night’s sleep.

The morning sunrise was brought to us unseen in the wilderness, but instead on the mountain range above in deep crimson, with the lake mimicking their colors. Only precious few minutes passed before the glory was gone and the day began in full. How many years has it been since I’ve seen back-to-back sunrises and in turn sunsets? The grayness of the sameness in 11am rise to 11pm work has tainted me. How can I return to that boringness again? How long will it last before I turn once again to the events that bring life to me?

Thursday, February 23, 2006

huckleberry eatin', trout catchin', bikin' good time

My Mrs. took off with the digital camera for a trip up to wisconsin and minnesota, so I thought I'd relive some history this week. Click on the scenic picture to try to find me riding my bike. Oh, the sky was a cheap camera, accidental double exposure by my sister...sweet, eh?

Breaking down camp that morning before dawn, we hit the Turtle Rock Loop Trail for some singletrack riding bikers can only dream of. We rode past aspen, beaver ponds, magnificent rock formations and awesome views. Stopping for a breather and a drink, we spotted some wild huckleberries to gobble up. Some movement in the tiny creek nearby caught my eye, and I noticed a trout maybe 10 inches long with his head under a rock overhang. Since he couldn't see me, I got real close and in a lightning strike from above, I plunged my hand down into the waters and grasped the base of his tail. "Yes! I got h...wait...darnitt!" I, uh, didn't think about actually catching the thing and what to do with it once I had. Would have been nice if I would have slung 'em to the bank. Oh, well.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

My first out-west roadtrip

Thursday morning, 9/9/99 7:45 a.m.--
Here I sit, on a boulder just east of Laramie. The Indians considered this place mystical and holy. Hallowed ground. We can see why. The rock formations here are arranged like the hand of God himself constructed them as a fortress to protect those who seek solitude here. Chipmunks, tails perfectly erect, seem emboldened by the power of the rocks, warding off intruders by their high pitched squeals and thrashing about. Aspens, not daring to present themselves in the open country surrounding us, have taken hold of the valleys in this place. Rabbits are less flighty than found elsewhere, almost daring you to pet them.
And then there are the pines. I’m not sure the kind, but a scraggly, rough, cowboy-type of pine that seem to will themselves into being. Individual and determined, they make their living on nothing but the rock they are gradually splitting open. Only two feet tall, it casts a bold shadow on the landscape below. It lends the fresh split of the rock to prairie grass, and it inspires every living thing to rise up and take root on the essence of life. Living fully, giving to others, making a better place.

Coffee and oatmeal must be the breakfast of the gods, for I feel it today. Rising up before dawn, we witness the creation of a new day. Stars set high above us, we see the pre-dawn reds appear over the vast prairie and begin to light up the magnificent rock around us. Then a subtle wind rises through the trees, birds awaken to sing, chipmunks sound off, and rabbits rustle about. It is a dawn of a new day-a new world to us. The night out of Tennessee brings us through endless towns all the same. Texaco, Mc Donald’s, Super 8. Texaco, Mc Donald's, Super 8. A subtle change begins after crossing the sluggish Mississippi. Missouri, Iowa, and Nebraska pass before us with buttes, canals, prairies full of beef cattle and horses, farmlands and farmers harvesting, dust clouds and terraced hills-sculpted by cattle and bison thousands strong years ago. The Missouri and the Platte rivers, the Oregon Trail and Pony Express each crisscross our path. Then we reach the promised land. Wyoming. We pass by the visitors centers because something inside tells us this voyage is our own. Not another’s already plotted out, highlighting their favorites. This is our adventure, as Lewis and Clark had done long ago.

"There! Over there! Antelope!", my sister cries out. The sight will burn forever in my mind as clear as this sunny day. Pronghorn antelope, maybe a dozen in two seperate groups, were grazing on top of a knoll. Many more followed. Scores of them emerging at the beginning of the end of a long day.

Awake by sheer willpower after 23 ½ hours on the road, we decide the first exit with a campsite would be the resting spot for the night. So here I sit on this massive boulder in Vedauwoo, warming in the morning sun, and overlooking our campsite, our sunrise, our dreams becoming reality. The rock I sit on, as the rock surrounding us here, appears to be of a crushed pink quartz in a cement-like gray mixture, with gold and lime colored lichen clinging to it. This must give the florescent color to the rock at rise and set of the sun. And now, off to do the dishes.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

cold, rainy, sleety days are made of this

Hot raspberry, lemon balm, and honey tea, smoked atlantic salmon, double cream brie, homegrown sun-dried heirloom tomatoes, olives, freshly plucked pomegranate seeds, and a good book. The dreams of distant places, past memories, future plans...

The daffodil, the narcissus

The last two days have seen temperatures in the mid 60s, and the signs of spring cannot hold off any more. The daffodils have come, adding life and color and promise to our home of better days to come. This flower of spring has a long history among many cultures for thousands of years. The Egyptians used them in funerary wreaths and the Romans raised them in greenhouses and set them out for banquets. As far as medicinal uses, the powdered flowers are used to induce vomitting. There are cases of eventual death by paralysis of the nervous system. My, how they do smell lovely, though...

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Henbit the weed

I hope to eventually identify everything on our land one day. Even the weeds. Actually, especially the "weeds". We Americans insist on lawns without blemish. Banish everything that doesn't look tidy. Phoey! Why enslave yourself to pushing a damn lawnmower every spare day off? Birds love all the many varieties of plants and seeds on our lawn. We've spent hours watching bluebirds dive down and feast. And so, with camera and identification books in hand, I happened upon these unique plants at bloom in the front yard.

Henbit (Lamium amplexicaule) is a cool season, annual broadleaf plant. They begin to grow in early fall and grow through the winter and spring. It's a member of the mint family, as you can see in its square stems. As such, it can be used to help repel mosquitoes. The young leaves can be thrown into salads, and the tiny flowers are pleasantly sweet. You can also throw in some leaves sauteed with spring onions, they match quite well.

As a side note, I caught 7 deer feeding behind the house at 10:30am, while taking out the compost bucket. Wildlife's been coming to our doorstep lately!

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

red fox cruisin'

Today, at about 1pm, I was out on the front lawn watching the bluebirds dive down from the power line and pick seeds off the lawn then pop back up. I saw an orange flash off to my left and looked up in time to see a fox cross the driveway, climb up the bank, and trot right past me...20 feet away! It crossed the lawn and looked up at me without breaking stride, then crossed into our woods and dissappeared. A full, lush coat gleaming in the sun, he was beautiful. What a moment! My wife got to see it all, too.

The red fox is the most widely distributed carnivore in the world; North America, Europe, Britain, Japan, Australia, throughout Asia and into North Africa. They can run up to 48km/hr and leap as high as 2 meters! It is an omnivore eating mainly rodents, rabbits, insects and fruit.

Monday, February 13, 2006

My sisters' happenings...

My sister Jodi has been in a bundle of excitement this last week. Snow fell at her mountain home, baby kid goats were born (the lil' cutie pies), and Kam (her husband) took off for Thailand to be with his father for his operation. Good luck, Jodi and clan! May I perscribe some of my lemon balm and mint tea? Calms MY nerves, anyway.

p.s. After Jodi took these pix, she scooped up some snow and ate it like a little kid. I think she'll be fine.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

black capped chickadee

Black-capped chickadees seem to love our sunflower seed feeders. These birds are a symbol of faithfulness. They hang around all year, and they mate for life...mostly. They have been known to get divorced, however. The rank of the potential mate can warrant a "trading up"! They prefer deciduous and mixed deciduous woodland, willow thickets as well as cottonwood, birch and alder trees. Their diet includes primarily insect larvae and eggs, caterpillars and spiders. They'll also eat plenty of pine, hemlock, birch, walnut, ragweed and sunflower seeds.

Friday, February 10, 2006

red-bellied woodpecker

A male red-bellied woodpecker has been frequenting our feeder lately. He will herd seeds into the corner then peck at them. He's a bit shy about us, but has been more daring lately. You'll find these birds primarily in mature deciduous forests (like around us), as well as woodland edges, groves, orchards and residential areas. Their diet includes ants, grasshoppers, beetles, acorns, beechnuts, corn, seeds, tree sap, and wild fruit and berries

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Chanterelle booty!

More writing of mushrooms make me think of more mushrooms! Chanterelles are pretty common in our area of the world we have discovered. The chanterelle is one of the most identifiable of all mushrooms. Once you've been shown what one looks like, you can spot them fifty feet away. This is one of our favorite meals...seared scallops with fresh tarragon and wild mushroom ragout. Wowser, that's some good eatin'!

Colorado morels

Excerpt from my Colorado '05 journal:

It's now tuesday evening, and we've stumbled on an incredible sight for camp. I sit idly beside a raging rapid, looking up through the aspen and pine to a jagged snowclad peak. A cool Maple nut brown ale in my grasp, and the pipe-smoking Jared by my side. Moments ago we finished quite a meal of buffalo burger, onion, portabella mushrooms, and MORELS, sopped up with some of telluride's own home baked bagels. The euphoria of place and beer-sipping merge into a calm, peaceful ecstasy. An hour earlier I had been wandering up and down the screaming river, exploring. I had picked up a few shards of aspen bark, then squatted down in an overflow creek looking at the many granite rocks in the creek. Glancing eventually to my left, on a bed of brilliant green, soft moss, stood a pair of black morel mushrooms so beautiful and perfect! AWESOME! I cannot believe my eyes! With trembling hands and thoughts of a jealous wife back home, I prepare one of the best meals of the trip...

Black Canyon of the Gunnison

Last summer, a buddy of mine and I took a road trip out to Colorado. We camped in the canyon for a couple of days, met some great people, and loved it.

Monday, February 06, 2006

harvest of 2005

Big, juicy brown turkey figs, heirloom tomatoes such as brandywine, cherokee purple, druzhba, black from tula, thai pink egg, red pear, yellow pear, yellow jubilee, and sweet peppers round off some of our little harvest in the first year. Today it is 35 degrees, slushy snow/raining, and I'm sick. Rebecca says the last time I was sick was 3 1/2 years ago. I decided to surround myself with feal-good things: hot blueberry green tea with honey, Rebecca's homemade soup, Mozart, and the visions of heaven. Warm, plush, rich, bursting from its seams brown turkey figs. Tomatoes. Home-grown tomatoes. Juicy, "slice it open and put a bead of sea salt on it and devour it" tomatoes. MMM.

welcome early spring!

Having bought a new place this last year, we continually find new treasures through the year. these crocuses are the 2nd surprise blooms of the new year (the first were the periwinkles). They're popping up everywhere.

orange mushroom on fallen oak branch

Hauling up some goat manure to the new garden beds, a fallen oak branch with several orange mushrooms caught my eye. If I weren't fighting off some flu-like business, I might get my butt up and go to the library room and retrieve Mushrooms Demystified. Maybe later.

indigo milkcaps

These milkcaps we gathered in autumn of 2004. Notice the blue tones throughout and the bloody evidence on the knife. The discovery was very exciting, although our treasure troves of chanterelles were tastier.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Here is another woodworking project. I made this arbor out of mimosa branches that Mike collected off of our property. (Basically just junk wood from prunings.) It took me about six weeks to complete the project, and I thoroughly learned how to use the drill. Even if I did break 4 drill bits!!! (we gave it to Mike's mother for christmas)-Rebecca

At the end of last year, we started woodworking. Just some little things. (And some a little bigger, too!) These are cabinet handles that I made from cedar branches that we collected from area forrests. They are strong and sturdy, and they look quite a bit better than plain old ordinary handles!!! -Rebecca

american goldfinches storm the feeders

Rebecca caught these finches this morning at the feeders. The cold spell coming in last night brought in birds in a frenzy for food today. These are in their winter coats. Their favorite foods are thistle and teasel seeds. They also eat small seeds from other weeds, grasses and trees, tree buds, maple sap and sometimes insects.

carolina wren

We've got a very active Carolina wren roaming over our property. It's always hopping and jumping around all over the place, especially under our deck and in the brushpile next to the compost pile. It's diet includes insects such as flies, grasshoppers, crickets, bees, moths, beetles, spiders and leafhoppers. To bring them to your feeders, include suet, sunflower seed and peanuts.

Friday, February 03, 2006

purple of sicily cauliflower

Rebecca's cauliflowers have just started to open their heads, how exciting!
We've stolen a few of the outside leaves for stir-fry meals, but the plants still look beautiful, don't they? The purple of sicily cauliflower is an heirloom from italy we have received from Baker Creek. The heads are supposed to turn purple as they grow. These are white, being the first day they have opened up. The heads are supposed to go to 2 or 3 pounds. We have heavy clay soil, so it's doubtful we will see that (methinks someone in my own household will devour them long before that!)

Thursday, February 02, 2006

broccoli raab

With all the warm weather lately, our broccoli raab has really taken off. We're in love with the stuff. Rebecca picks the florets off and eats them as fast as she picks 'em. The leaves are great in our salads, the stalks are like really tender asparagus shoots, and the florets are like, well, broccoli. They are a good source of vitamins A, C, B2, K, and phosphorus, as well as calcium and iron. They're a good source of protein, fiber, and pholate. They are more closely related to turnips than broccoli. Umm, and they're scrumptous.

quail, snail, and chanterelle!

Tuesday night I got a little inspired and created an amazingly tasty dish out of marinated quail breast, chopped escargot, andouille sausage, last year's hand picked wild chanterelle mushrooms, shiittake mushrooms, garlic, cippolini onion, our own kohlrabi greens (they maintain a great, firm texture), a few tomatoes off the vine from in the garage, a handful of our sun-dried yellow pear tomatoes and thai pink egg tomato, our dried oregano, and a handful of sweet basil from our struggling plants in the house. Did I miss anything? Oh yes, a touch of organic cream, a dousing of fresh ground black pepper, shredded emmental cheese...

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Vedauwoo in June '05

A friend and I took a roadtrip last June into Colorado and Wyoming. This happens to be in Vedauwoo, one of the most spiritual places I've visited. The name's origin is from the Arapahoe word "biito'o'wu" meaning "Land of the earthborne spirits". The boulders that make up this region can be seen miles away.
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