Monday, March 19, 2012

Return to Winter–Again



We woke this morning to four or five inches of snow. It was a beautiful morning, looking foggy with the heavily falling snow. We had to scrape snow from the cat feeding perch and out of the chicken yard so there wouldn’t be so much mud while the snow melts over the next couple of days or so. We hauled in extra firewood, too, though it’s still warm enough that it wasn’t necessary. Ben drove the car out to the end of our driveway before the snow begins to melt, so we won’t have to drive in the worst of the sticky mud and mess up our newly graveled road.

If it sounds like I’m complaining, I’m not; I love the snow and I really appreciate all the extra moisture. We should have a good spring and summer for wildflowers, pasture grass and good tree growth. With more snow in the mountains we’ll have fewer wildfires, too. Life is very different here than in the city, but considering all the problems going on in the rest of the world and the benefits of this minor bit of extra work, Ben and I are pretty happy men and we feel very lucky. And the change of scenery when the weather changes is always a nice, extra benefit. Variety, as my grandmother used to say, is the spice of life.


Last weekend we went to Porcupine Cabin in the upper Shields  Valley. It was a beautiful spot way up on the mountain. During the winter the only way up there is on snowshoes or skis and supplies have to be backpacked or sledded in. But it was such a wonderful spot I felt like I could live there year round. When I’m really old I might have different thoughts about it, but it wouldn’t be that much different than our situation now and the spectacular view would make up for the little bit of harder lifestyle it would be.

We were joined by Rob and Tom, Jacki and Don,  and Lori and her WOOFer volunteer, Caitlin. It was a real party. We had loads of fun skiing, snowshoeing, sledding and cooking on the wood stove.



The morning sun on the Bridger Mountains, our view across the valley from the yard of the cabin.




Ben riding the sled on our way out.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Life 101–Life is Change

This morning we woke to a fresh, beautiful covering of snow, which filled me with excitement as we slogged through it on our way down the ridge to do morning chores.

It’s 5:00 now and the snow is completely gone.


I know many people don’t like change, unless it happens to be a dramatic improvement that makes life easy and trouble-free, but those changes are rare. We’re facing many such changes in the world right now and if Americans were truly concerned about providing our own energy sources for national security, for looking into a future of diminishing fossil fuels and with a hope for a healthier future, then we would become serious about, among other things, alternate energy. Obviously we’re not concerned about much of anything but continuing to live as we are now, without having to face changes.

People want to believe there is no future in alternate energy, because, they say, look at what is happening with those sources right now and you can plainly see they cannot possibly provide inexpensive, reliable and plentiful energy. These people need only to dig through their short-sighted, self-imposed amnesia in order to see the truth by viewing our recent technological history to see what happens when we start working seriously on anything we put our minds to: remember computers sixty years ago? even calculators thirty years ago? are you aware of the changes t.v. has gone through in its history? radio? and every other technological advance we’ve made? Not a single one of them started out with the efficiency that later made them profitable and widely available.

Is anyone really so simple-minded and myopic that they cannot foresee the possibilities of such sources for energy in the future? I doubt it; sometimes I think some people are so afraid of change that they won’t even consider it if they aren’t forced to do so. After all, they will have to remember like plugging their electric car in when they get home from work and, even more challenging, they’ll have to remember to unplug it in the morning, with only a single cup of coffee in their systems, before they drive off for work.

I have little patience for such people, obviously. They don’t like to have to think. They like things the way they are now; or, even more commonly, they like things the way they used to be . . . the way they were when they were young, living in “the good old days” when, if something distressed them they could run home and close the door, get a big hug from mommy and daddy and a kiss on the forehead while being told that everything was going to be alright.

But we all have to grow up and face reality as adults. We have to learn to make tough decisions and, if we’re wise, when we figure out those decisions weren’t the best and our lives could be made better, we make new decisions and change directions. Unfortunately, wisdom seems to be as rare and elusive as space aliens.

And I worry that won’t change any time soon.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Cooking 101–Chocolate Truffle Cake

The original recipe was for a flourless chocolate cake, but (of course) I made some alterations and turned up a cake that was very much like chocolate truffles with a tiny bit of cake attitude. This is incredibly rich and delicious, so serving size should be small, no bigger than 2”x2” square pieces.

Tools you will need:

8”x8” or 9”x9” square baking pan lined with greased parchment or waxed paper, double boiler, rubber spatula.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt in double boiler: 3 cups of high quality semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/4 cup cocoa 

1/2 cup butter (I actually used 1/4 cup butter and 1/4 cup canola oil and it was plenty rich)

Stir in: 1/2 cup frozen orange juice concentrate

1/2 cup water

(this renders a light and delicate orange undertone in heavy chocolate, if you want more orange flavor, use a full cup of orange juice concentrate)

1 tsp. vanilla

Cool to room temperature (stirring in the frozen o.j. concentrate cooled this down fine for me)

Beat in: 6 eggs

Pour well mixed batter into the lined baking pan, bake 50 to 55 minutes until center of cake is firm and no longer glossy. It might be best to cool before removing from pan, but I flipped it over on a cooling rack to cool the cake. This left lines in the top of the cake, but no one cared.

As I mentioned before, this cake is very rich, but is so good that if you can afford the caloric intake it makes a very nice special event treat. If you want it even richer, you could make a ganache to pour over the top, though I felt the cake itself was very satisfying.


Chocolate Ganache

In double boiler melt: 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (again, use good quality chips)

Add: 1 Tbsp. cocoa

Remove from heat and stir in: 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream

Whisk until smooth, drizzle over cooled truffle cake.

If you wish to lighten the cake a bit, serve with a dollop of whipped cream (but add 1/3 to 1/2 less sugar than you normally would when whipping the cream)

Monday, March 5, 2012

Life 101–Caffeine high

Ben and I usually drink decaf coffee. After I came home from trying to take care of dad and mom, I was so stressed that the last thing I needed was caffeine. Last Wednesday I made our morning coffee with half caffeinated coffee, because we had run out of decaf in the house. There was more decaf out in the freezer in the shed, but, well, I was too lazy to bundle up to go retrieve it in the dark. So I ended up with a caffeine high that had me bouncing off the ceiling and walls and screwing up in the studio because my scattered mind couldn’t focus on any one thing while it was trying to figure out so many. I reminded myself of the way my caffeine-addicted father, who drinks coffee all day long, was acting so mindlessly when I tried to take care of him.

It was useless to try to work with that caffeine high, so we went cross-country skiing instead. It was cloudy and windy and the snow was really bad, but we had a great time. The sun was trying to peek through the clouds, sparkling off the snow and silhouetting the trees with backlight. The temperature was warm despite the wind and snow, and the mountains were spectacular with the grey-blue-white of the cloud-shadowed snow, the glimmering of the pallid, blocked sun and the trees waving frantically to us.

By the time we got back home my caffeine buzz was gone, but my nature buzz still had me high, though in a better way. I was able to work in the studio that afternoon without wreaking havoc, just happy to be living here in this world that some days seems so much like the fantasies I’m creating for printing on paper.









Porcupine Cabin