Monday, December 14, 2009

Steelhead fishing on the Snake with Reed, Stacey and John

Thanksgiving with Mike and Baylea

Rock Candles

Ice fishing on Big Sky Lake

Handmade sock knitted by me!

So last we talked, I was quoting sappy poems and talking about wonderful fall actives with my friends and family. Well, much time has passed and now it is decidedly winter. Yes, winter has settled onto Missoula and onto my mood like a chilly, damp, heavy, suffocating blanket. But don't get me wrong, I love winter...

The biggest factor in my seasonally induced blues is actually not seasonally induced at all. Remember that nasty fall I took at Hot Springs on Mike's birthday? It turns out that I fractured my 5th metatarsal, not badly sprained it, as I had thought. I finally went to a doctor after a month of unceasing pain. So for the past three months, I have been limping and the past two of those, I have been limping in a nice medical boot. I moped and felt sorry for myself for awhile and then I joined the Women's Club and started doing weights, water aerobics, Pilates and yoga. Sometimes, I get really frustrated with the stiff boot but most of the time, it just feels nice to move. I knitted myself a fleece lined toe sock so that my feet will stay cozy in the snowy wetness and borrowed a right high soled clog from a friend to make my hips a little more even. I hope to be rehabbing by January.

Mike's older brother passed last week and, while I didn't know him very well, I still feel his death most acutely, mostly through Mike's pain, but also through the injustice of it all. He was in his thirties, healthy as a horse and happy as can be. Then he was diagnosed with brain cancer. He beat the cancer and went back to wild land fire fighting. Then it came back and his health declined until he was no more. I am confused, angry, sad and scared. How unfair is take a man in his prime, who lived healthily, who loved life and was happy, who had friends and family who loved him, who still had so much to give. I am mad that I didn't get to know him. How many people in this world have been shorted because he was shorted? And how unfair for his brothers...I can't even imagine how horrible it must be to lose a sibling, a sibling who guided you through the death of your mother and who traveled with you and waited for you after you got done with work with a six-pack of beer to sit and chat. I just feel so sad. My dad wrote me some poignant words that almost put things in perspective...

The separation from his human presence is painful and difficult. He will me missed. However, his spirit remains... will always remain. His spirit is woven into thepeople who knew him an into the things he loved, that things that madehim who he is. His parting gift to the rest of us is . . .his spirit. Watch for it in apparent,, yet unexpected places, in a stranger's smile, the hug of a child or the incredible vibrance of energy that is life. His spirit is here and we are all better because of him.

In other news, I went steelhead fishing and reeled in three lovely fish, which I smoked! I crocheted a hat and knitted socks, both firsts in the needle works department for me. I have also been helping mom update her house. We repainted everything, washed the carpets and re-stained the grout in the tiles. It sounds like a short list but it has taken weeks. I made rock candles with my god mother and went ice fishing with my god aunt. I had two thanksgivings; one with Mike's family (highlight being the labeled name tags at each setting and the crazy marshmallow pastry hors d'oeuvres) and one with my family (highlight being when Baylea, the beagle, bit a battery and got acid burns on her tongue and gums). I applied, interviewed for and then declined a job as a teacher's aide at Stevensville. Long story there. I am anxious to be well and to travel and most of all to dance like a know I can.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Brown Penny
William Butler Yeats

I whispered, "I am too young"
And then, "I am old enough "

Wherefore I threw a penny
To find out if I might love.

"Go and love, go and love, young man,
If the lady be young and fair. "

Ah, penny, brown penny, brown penny
I am looped in the loops of her hair.
O love is the crooked thing
There is nobody wise enough
To find out all that is in it
For he would be thinking of love
Till the stars had run away
And the shadows eaten the moon.

Ah, penny, brown penny, brown penny
One cannot begin it too soon.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

pumpkin cookin'
Gogol Bordello
"Start Wearing Purple!"

Gypsy Punks!
Gogol Bordello!

Fall Harvest Bounty

Roasting chilies

Cyser prior to pitching the yeast
Sarah pasturizing the apple juice and heating the honey

1 Ingredients for our cyser!
Tunes being aloof, as always
K.C. enjoying a piece of corn
Sarah and I pressing apples for our cyser
The skull pumpkin that I carved
The PEAS farm hens
The PEAS farm onions
The PEAS farm kale plants
Sarah and my Mom
Sarah and my $7 Thai pepper plant!!
Sarah and I at Farmer's Market

"O Autumn, laden with fruit, and stained
With the blood of the grape, pass not, but sit
Beneath my shady roof; there thou may'st rest,
And tune thy jolly voice to my fresh pipe;
And all the daughters of the year shall dance!
Sing now the lusty song of fruit and flowers."
- William Blake, To Autumn, 1783

“Am I going home to idleness? No, no. My feet and hands may be still, not so the mind--that has its aspirations yet, and it will work, for it has a law unto itself. Idleness is one thing, doing is another." -Lew Wallace.

My life of unemployment began with Mike’s birthday. Actually, it began with picking chilis at Steve’s for market and becoming so ill that I threw up four times, twice on the way to Stevensville from Hamilton. But that was just a small ripple that hardly is worth mentioning. Mike’s birthday began with lunch at his favorite Thai restaurant, Sa Wadee’s. Then we drove to Hot Springs, Montana to meet up with his pal, Billie, soak in the healing waters, and watch the musical entertainment. We checked into the historic Syme’s hotel and they gave us our choice of bathrobes! I got a silky paisley smoking lounge robe and Mike got a plaid old man’s robe. We went straight for the cooler and larger of the two pools and hung out there for awhile. Then we met up with Billie and had dinner. They had a really good hummus plate and a really cool duo for entertainment. She played the accordion and the synthesizer and he played the guitar. We are trying to get them to come and play at Blacksmith sometime. I discreetly asked the waitress to bring us a piece of cake with a candle in it for Mike, which, to his delight, she did. We had another soak and then walked to the nearby bar. I tripped on an uneven piece of cement on the sidewalk and severely twisted my foot. I iced it while playing shuffle board. It got progressively worse throughout the night. I was able to walk down the stairs to get into the claw foot tubs in the late evening. But by morning, I was practically sobbing with pain and had to crawl or hop to get anywhere.

I was in so much pain but decided that I wanted to go the his softball team’s end of the year picnic anyway. I got to meet a lot of his friends and their wives and kids. They are a very nice group of people and they helped me get around, find ice and get drinks. I was sad to not be able to take part in the kickball game. But that was probably for the best. It was precious to watch the daddies help their kids play out on the field!

I spent the next week trying to rest up my foot. It is such a hard thing to stay off of though. I applied for health insurance and unemployment benefits, watched a bunch of movies and planned a visit with Sarah. She came to visit on October 1st and we had a glorious time. First of all, we watched the movie, Twilight. We complained about its poor writing and its discouraging portrayal of the female character. We have both decided to not finish reading the series. What a horrible set of books for little and big girls to read. We washed away the ill feelings by spending the next day gleaning fruit from ally ways. We collected an abundance of apples, pears, prunes and grapes. We strolled about First Friday and capped off the night with a great performance by Tom Catmull at Sean Kelly’s.

We went to the Farmer’s Market, the Good Food Store’s local harvest festival and to the Peas Farm for their Bhutanese Chilies and Happiness Festival. There, we met up with several friends from the bar the night before. It was a blustery windy evening so we decided to watch movies, pop popcorn and make brownies together at Lisa’s place. Lisa has been living in a tent in the yard all summer. That evening, the tent was rent into pieces by the wind. We tried to duct tape it back together but the canvas had been so compromised by the beating sun, that it disintegrated in our fingers. We moved as much of her stuff as we could into the kitchen and she has been sleeping in the computer room until she goes to New Zealand.

Sunday we had brunch with my family and relaxed. We did some cooking. But mostly, we chatted. Eventually, we made our way to Stevensville where Mike and his buddies were having a Chargers versus Steelers potluck party at the bar. We brought apple tartlets and hummus with pita. The game was pretty good and the Chargers started playing well in the last half. Unfortunately they lost. Mike wasn’t too shaken though and he took us over to Blacksmith for a beer tasting. Sarah was enamored with the brewery and ended up buying a shirt. We spent the next day touring the Bitterroot. We went to Life Line Diary and saw the cutest baby pigs and cows. Sarah and I are both interested in spinning wool and making goat cheese and yogurt. Sarah has actually successfully made cheese and yogurt from pasteurized cow milk. We are hoping to find unpasteurized milk, if possible, in the future. We also went to the Lifeline outlet where they make cheese. We toured Steve’s place and picked a bunch of chilies. We ended up cooking dinner at Mikes and carving pumpkins. Or at least, I carved a pumpkin and Mike and Sarah watched.

On Tuesday, the day before Sarah’s departure, we pressed the apples that we gleaned at Dad’s. Then we brewed a cyser, a spiced apple mead. While transferring the hot wort to the glass carboy we broke it. Fortunately, we didn’t loose a lot of the precious liquid. But we couldn’t pitch the yeast before Sarah left. We were both disappointed because one of the most exciting and gratifying parts of brewing is watching the krausening take place. Krausening is what happens when the yeasties convert the sugars into alcohol and let of gas. It manifests in jocular bubbling of the airlock and roiling liquid in the carboy. All the gas blowoff really lets you know that action is happening and that good work is being done. After Sarah left, I bough a plastic carboy and pitched the yeast. I took the cyser to Blacksmith’s, hoping that it would be a more consistent and warmer temperature in the brew house for the little yeasties. The cyser’s original gravity was 1.1 and it has been bubbling away for the past two weeks! This was the approximate recipe that we used:

Spiced Cyser
4-5 gallons apple juice
7-8 lbs honey
10 cinnimon sticks
1 cup clove, allspice, nutmeg, lemon and orange zest, star anise and fenugreek mulling spice
4 tbsps acid blend
6 tsps yeast nutrient
6 campden tablets
white wine yeast

After Sarah left, I embarked on a week of music. I began by seeing my favorite local artist, Tom Catmull at Blacksmith. I followed that up with the Clumsy Lovers at the Top Hat. They come to Missoula about twice a year and I rarely miss them. They play alt-country-rock-bluegrass and are always a blast. The drummer does a great cover of Folsom Prison! Then Mike and I went to see Gogol Bordello. They are a multi-national gypsy punk, pirate band. They have accordions, fiddles, drums, buckets and other interesting instruments that they use to put on the most energetic and rocking show that I have ever seen. Mike and I had a great time. We visited two different breweries before hand so we were pretty giddy. I had printed “Start Wearing Purple,” the name of one of their songs, on my purple tie dye shirt and I was wearing purple underwear. They actually played the song during the concert and I was so excited that I flashed my purple undies at the band!! After the concert, I was so high energy that I screamed song lyrics all the way down the sidewalk to my car. I wasn’t the only one by any means. Mike and many of the other concert goers were also gadding about on the streets. It was certainly the most memorable musical experience yet!

Mike and I had a great fall weekend! We road our bikes to the Farmer’s Market and stocked up on jalapeƱos, eggplants and carrots. Then we went to the Grizzly football game. Actually, we tailgated first. One of Blacksmith’s bartenders also works at Advanced Imaging and she got us a great deal on tickets and we got to take part in their free tailgate party. They had an amazing array of food including, veggie burgers, meat burgers, chili, chips, cake, cookies and all you can drink Big Sky Brewing beer. We ate and drank our fill before going into the game. We had awesome seats in the Northwest wedge. The Grizzlies played horribly for the first half. Mike explained that they were much like his precious Chargers in that they were a late blooming team. He was right. After we tailgated during halftime, the Griz really stepped up and put on a great game. I was on the edge of my seat and was really relieved when they won. It was a pretty close game towards the end and the last two minutes on the clock seemed to drag on for hours. After the game, we went to the new Kettlehouse taproom. It was our first time there. We both liked the place though I felt as though it could use some more tables or couches. We discussed the potential for a homebrew shop in the extra room with the bar manager. They might also have beer-university classes there. I like the idea of going back to their roots. They began as a you-brew-on-premises after all! I need a you-brew location so that I can do an all grain beer soon! Then we went to the Good Food Store to pick up ingredients for Mike’s newest beer, pumpkin ale! We picked up allspice, ginger, cinnamon sticks, cloves and nutmeg. We were going to see Tom Catmull at the Union Club but ended up going back to Stevensville and Blacksmith. Cellar Door was jamming and Trisha got us all dancing! Afterward, Mike and I cooked a kick-ass eggplant pizza!

I pressed apples with Isabella and dad on Sunday. Then we made bear sausage with the meat from a black bear that dad shot in Idaho awhile back. After making venison sausage with him last fall, I wanted to devise my own sausage recipe for the bear. I combined a couple different recipes that I found online and in books. This is the recipe I ended up using:

Red Wine Bear Sausauge
4 lbs Bear Meat
1 lb beef fat
2.5 tsps salt
2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp celery seed
.5 tsp thyme
.5 tsp savory
2 tsp garlic powder
.5 cups dry red wine

I adapted the recipe for 21 lbs of bear. We used about half the amount of beef fat. While dad was butchering the bear, I cubed the fat and rendered it in a cast iron Dutch oven at about 200 degrees. We did a coarse grind on the bear meat and beef fat first. Then Isabella and I mixed the spices and wine. We mixed it into the coarse ground meat and fat. Then we did a fine grind. I put the meat into the grinder and dad filled the plastic casing. Isabella marked the casing with the year. After the sausage was finished, I strained the rendered bear fat through cheese cloth into a mason jar. Rendered bear fat is supposed to be great for pastries, frying doughnuts and waterproofing leather. I put it on my hiking boots and it made them super soft and pliable. The water beads up on them right away.

I spent all day Monday cooking 30 pounds of my dad’s pumpkins for Mike’s pumpkin ale. It was quite the endeavor. I threw the pumpkins down on the sidewalk to break them. Then I gutted them. After they had cooled from cooking, I peeled off the skins. There was pumpkin everywhere! Mike saved a couple pumpkins worth of seeds and soaked them in water with jalapeƱos. The seeds weren’t as spicy as we had expected but the occasional piece of jalapenos made up for the lack of spice in the seeds.

My unemployment period only lasted a brief couple of months. I started substitute teaching for the Stevensville School District. I have worked in the learning center with special needs kids in the middle school a couple of days. I also substituted for a second grade teacher. Next week I will be substituting for a Title One reading tutor for a couple days. That should be fun. I am about to embark on a weekend of beer. Mike is taking me to Bozeman with him for the Montana Brewers Association beer festival and Saturday is Blacksmith’s one year anniversary. Come on down to Stevensville if you get the opportunity! There will be 9 different styles of beer, free root beer floats, food and music by Mudslide Charlie!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Steps and check dams on Big Creek

Gabions up Big Creek

Mom and Baylea came to visit

Me in the gabions

Mike and I
Peace flags atop St. Mary's Peak

Rosie the mule
Impoved tread up Halloway
Loading up the pack train

Kayaking the Blackfoot for my 25 birthday
Little Rock Creek trail and Lake Como
Kristin, Mark, Jenna and I at Little Rock Creek Lake

Taylor and I after tubing on a very cold day
Pitch on the lips up Canyon Creek

Thursday, September 24, 2009

August and September Briefly
"If you watch how nature deals with adversity, continually renewing itself, you can't help but learn." -Bernie Siegel, MD

The experience of working on the Level 1 crew continued to darken like a threatening storm cloud. After our hitch up Big Creek, the smoldering coal of discontentment glowed red hot on our hitch up Bear Creek. Craig's girlfriend was visiting and was even more distant and difficult to work with over the four days that we were cutting out. Portia had just had tooth surgery and her jaw was swollen like a golf ball and her temper was running hot and cold. With the addition of Craig's girlfriend, we were able to run two crosscut saws at once. We worked efficiently, but I was on eggshells and shards of glass. Relief came when I was able to hike from Bryan Lake to the pass at Sky Pilot by myself. On my descent I was surprised by the arrival of my mother and father. They joined Portia and I for the night. Craig and his girlfriend had hiked out earlier and were taking the next four days of the hitch off. Portia and I were planning to leave the next morning and do other work for the rest of the hitch. Our plans were arrested in their tracks when Portia cut her hand with the sharp blade of the Pulaski that she carried on her backpack about a mile into our hike out. I bandaged her up and headed for the trailhead, and subsequently, the ER in Hamilton. I worked the next three days on my own. They were glorious. I brought my mp3 player with me and listened to music while cleared what I could with a Sally saw up Canyon Creek.

That week was the beginning of the end. I spent my 7 day weekend in the Beartooths with Whitney and forgot all about the odd dynamics that had formed between Portia, Craig and I. In fact, I forgot entirely about my aching pinkie toe and was only mildly bothered by my Achilles tendons. Unfortunately, the cleansing affect that the high altitude beauty provided carried me for about one day after our return. Then the doom of returning to work for two more months settled in. My anxiety was so high that I couldn't help but let on to Portia and she then she held a crew meeting that lasted about an hour and half. During this time, we got all our worries and gripes off our chests. I won't go into the gory details, but we were all having issues with each other. Craig was mad at me for working while I was hurt. He said that he understood how I was entrapped by the system but was still mad at me for not rising above it. I was the most worried about working with only Craig for the entire month of September because Craig was so unpleasant to work with. Portia would be starting school at the end of August and wouldn't be working with us much. Craig apologized for his poor attitude but refused to change it. Craig and I both let Portia know what we thought of her leadership abilities and how irresponsible and annoying we both thought it was that she didn't own a watch or an alarm clock. Our discussion had a cathartic effect but reached no plausible, or for that matter, implausible conclusions. We just decided to continue on and see if anything changed of its own volition between us.

I still felt nauseatingly anxious about work in September and was on the verge of quitting early. Fortunately, I didn't have to quit because, the next day, Craig did. His resignation left Portia and Steve stunned. I, on the other hand, felt like this had been coming all season and was overjoyed that it had finally happened. I felt that his absence would be more of a boon then a burden. Portia and I could get work done without his negative attitude and indifference ripping us apart like fire. Which is what we did: We worked day trips up Little Rock Creek in the pouring rain. Sure, it was cold and miserable but at least it was the weather affecting our moods, not Craig. During our trips up Little Rock Creek, Portia attached herself to me like a leech. She has been having some interesting personal struggles that she unloaded on me. She needed some advise and some lifting up. In the end, attending to her took more energy than working did. The work week was incredibly taxing, both emotionally and physically but none of that mattered because Taylor came to visit from Japan and provided some sunlight in the darkening work atmosphere.

He met me at the Brewery in Stevensville and we spent the evening chatting away over pizza and beer. He had been planning to work my last day with me but his excessive alcohol consumption made that impossible. We rose above all that though and spent the evening in Missoula's finest drinking establishments. Taylor and I had all sorts of adventures while he was here, including floating the Blackfoot River. That was a comical experience because I was under the impression that Taylor was a seasoned floater. It turns out that he is deathly afraid of rapids and that he has never successfully finished a float. Most of them have ended in capsized tubes or thunderstorms. This time, the temperature was a little too cold and my tube was leaking. Taylor's fear of rapids had manifested in full force and had gotten out to walk around several nasty looking rapids in wooden flip flops. Needless to say, we didn't float to the end of this trip either.

Amidst Taylor's visit, I took Mike out to eat at the Red Bird and then I took him to my first Osprey baseball game. We had champagne cheese fondue and expensive red wine at the Red Bird and cracker jacks and beer at the game. It was perfect. We even got to see the great big South African, Floyd, participate in a base changing game. Floyd and I have known each other for a while but Mike had just met him earlier at the Farmer's Market and was delighted to see Floyd kick-ass in the competition. We capped the evening off by reuniting with Taylor and prowling around the downtown bars. The weekend also consisted of mad Farmer's Marketing, wiener dog races and a chili rellanos cook off between Mike and I. I wrapped up my weekend with a potluck at Taylor's hippy mom, Christina's house. Taylor and I had attempted to set our single mothers up with each other last Christmas. We had a double date at Sean Kelly's and we thought they hit it off quite well. Unfortunately, they didn't see each other again and Christina had a boyfriend at the potluck so Taylor and my dreams of being siblings will have to be accomplished through some other means.

Craig's departure, along with the fact that I would be working with the other trail crew, lifted some of the doom and gloom from my outlook on work. The next 8 days would be split up between doing rock work up Little Rock Creek and doing level 1 clearing on Trapper Creek. The hitch up Little Rock Creek was very fun. We fixed some really rotten pieces of trail and did a lot of rock crushing with a sledge hammer. This type of work is very satisfying and cathartic. Teamwork is required but there is also a lot of opportunities to work alone. Mark, Kristin, Jenna and I had a really good time in camp too. Mark and Kristin brought some really plush things with them on the hitch such as two person tents, thick thermorests, cans of food and tennis shoes. They are used to being packed in by a string of mules and perhaps brought too much on this non mule supported trip, especially since we left 4 days early! We had a very nice hike up to the lake and the weather was hot and nice enough that we all went swimming! I think that we had all been waiting all summer for an opportunity to swim in a cold mountain lake!

I took the last day of the hitch off to turn in a teacher's aide application at the Stevensville Public School District. I had spent a lot of time prior getting TB tests and filling out the application. It wasn't easy to get the test due to my work schedule and the limited times that the country health dept. offered TB tests and readings. The secretary at the school was very curt when she told me that had missed yesterday's 4:00pm deadline and that there was no way she would put it on the pile. I was so sad. I had blown 20$ on a TB test, $30 on a background check and taken a whole day off of work. What a bummer. Part of my late application was my own fault but I still felt horrible about it and cried pretty hard in the parking lot. That bitch! And if that wasn't enough for the day, I had a colossal beer bottle explosion in the kitchen. One exploding bottle hit me in the stomach and knocked me down. The last bottles of my precious dunkleweizen exploded all over the kitchen ceiling, walls, windows and floor. Beer got on everything. I am still finding sticky spots. The whole ordeal took me hours to clean up and I got a pretty good cut on my pinkie finger from a piece of glass. Mike tried to comfort me by renting a feel good movie called Marley and Me. The movie is about the life of a dog and his owners. Mike's intentions were certainly in the right place but the movie was not my kind of movie. I am not allowed to watch animal movies at all. I began to cry as soon as Marley started to show signs of aging. I didn't stop until Marley was safely buried beneath a tree in the back yard and the credits had finished rolling. Poor Mike had fallen asleep at some point and awoke to my body-racking sobs. He had no clue what was going on but he held me just the same. That was two days before my birthday.

The day before me birthday will count as my real birthday because it was a lovely day, perhaps the most lovely of the summer. I made huckleberry pancakes in the morning. The huckleberries had been an early birthday present from Colleen and mom. Then I floated the Blackfoot River with mom and dad on the sit on top kayaks. We started at Thibideau rapids, a minor waterfall that I haven't floated since my 11 or 12th birthday. Then we refreshed ourselves at the Kettlehouse with Mike. Dad retrieved Isabella and we all had dinner at Biga Pizza. We got a table outside and were able to enjoy the wonderful late summer evening.

Mike and I went to see a Ween concert in Bend Oregon with some of his buddies for the weekend. Bend is a really cool town. The concert was in an outdoor amphitheater on the river. There is a river walk with a bunch of art stalls along the way and plenty of restaurants with outdoor seating towards the river and the amphitheater. We had cheap hors d'oeuvres and cocktails at one such restaurant. The sky darkened and it sprinkled rain a little before the concert. Mike and I made or way to the front mosh pit and stayed there for all of the concert. The show was great! Gene and Dean Ween certainly know how to put on a show. Ween attracts quite a spectrum of people and I got almost as much of a kick from people watching as I did from the performers. They performed some of my favorites too! Zoloft, Your Party, Bananas and Blow, Buckingham Green and Push the Little Daisies. We went out on the town afterward. We went to the Dechutes brewpub and we also checked out a club called Blacksmith. The place was not my kind of place at all. So we hit the road and partied at the hotel with Mike's buddies. The next day, we met up with some of his other friends and spent the whole afternoon on the patio of one of the riverside restaurants drinking margaritas and watching the perfectly happy people go by on the walk or on the river. We began calling the place happy town. Mike and I went for a swim in the hotel pool and were lingering in the hot tub when a family with small children took to the pool. We were about to re-enter the pool when the dad told us that one of his kids had just had an accident in the pool. So we stayed in the hot tub and watched him fish pieces of poo out while his children screamed from the strollers. After that, I took off on my own for awhile and discovered that another favorite band of mine, Pink Martini, was playing at the amphitheater that night. I found a patio with a nice fire pit and settled in to watch the concert from across the river. A couple songs into the concert, Mike joined me. It was perfectly romantic.

I went to work for the next eight days without a hint of anxiety. Steve, Portia, Craig and Level 1 were all out of the picture. Instead, I was looking forward to a luxurious 8 day, mule supported hitch up Sweeney Creek doing tread repairs, building rock bars and blasting with Kristin, Mark and Dan. The nights and mornings were so cold and I was thankful that we were mule supported so that I could bring my full length thermorest and heavy sleeping bag. We also brought a wall tent and a wood heating stove. Even though we were cold at work, we were comfy at camp! Nick came up on the coldest day to blast. He brought us pie and ice cream and we sat and ate and shivered in the midst of a minor snow flurry. Blasting day was quite boring for me. I was stationed up trail of the blasting site and was tasked with stopping anyone who might be trying to hike through the blasting area. Important job, but slow nonetheless. It was really cool to come and clean up shards of rock after the blast and see how easily is pulverized the unyielding stone.

The last and final hitch of the season we installed gabions up Big Creek. Kristin was in and out at various times with her mom and dogs. My mom and Baylea, the Beagle, even came to visit. It was really fun to see Baylea at home in the woods. She's going to be a hiking dog yet! We also did some tread work and installed several check dams. Dan and I felled a large cedar with a crosscut saw for steps. We also had a morning of helicopter fly overs. It was dropping cement on the structure that dams Big Creek Lake. There was also a massive wind storm that caused several trees to fall down within earshot. On fell across the trail and I had to spend a morning retrieving the crosscut saw from the place that we had cashed it 4 miles down the trail. It was a really nice walk though. We spent our last day cleaning up and storing gear and tools at the West Fork Compound. It was sickly sweet to be ending the season. On one hand, I was very ready to be done with the drama and the nights on a hard ground and the monotony of clearing level 1. I think that my mentality was akin to race runners. I set my mind to make it to the end of 3 miles and by the time I get there, I am exhausted and want to run no more. I feel as though I couldn't go on, even though I could probably run 5 or 6 miles, no sweat. It's the same with the season. I set my sights on 5 months and now that it is almost over, I feel as though I could not continue. Working with the construction crew was a much needed change. It was certainly a renewal and I am glad that my supervisors and I had the ability to adapt in such a positive to the difficulties that the Level 1 crew faced. The construction crew is solid. Kristin, Dan and Mark will all be back next summer. Steve asked me if I would be coming back. A huge part of me does want to come back and lead the Level 1 crew and make it a great season. But another part of me wants to find something a little more permanent and a little less hard on the body. Only time will tell.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Wow, the hike across the Beartooths was amazing. Check out the new slide show in the right hand margin!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

9 minutes and counting until I leave for an epic 29 mile through hike in the Beartooths with Whitney!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Beargrass in the Big Creek Lakes area

Cross-cut close-up

Moving the cut piece of a 30+ inch log off the trail

The view from Packbox Pass

Portia, Craig and I on a 30+ inch tree that needs to be removed
The Big Creek hitch went really well. We busted up to the lake in just two days. There was a "crazy axe man" who had been up the trail before us and had cut out most of the downed trees. Unfortunately, he had not cut them to spec and we spent a lot of time correcting his shoddy work. The other unfortunate part of the whole situation was that I think that he was actually using a chainsaw, which is against Wilderness regulations. My speculation is that someone associated with the water rights holders and the dam got impatient and took logging out matters into their own hands. I guess that things like this happen every year and often, our schedule will get shuffled around in order to accommodate water rights holder's wishes to access the dams on lakes. I am mildly disappointed in the fact that my schedule is at the mercy of water rights holders who, for lack of a better word, blackmail us by threatening to log out the trail themselves with chainsaws if we don't get their first with cross-cuts. Is nothing sacred?!
On a brighter side, we saw two black bears! It was so fun to watch them nose around looking for grubs. We also got to cut a couple of trees that were over 30 inches in diameter. We cut the chunks at angels so that they slid off the trail really easily despite their great size and weight. Big Creek Lake was a joy to swim in, the bugs were tolerable and the view from Packbox Pass was astounding. We also got done with the job a day early so we got a nice warm shower and I got to see Mike sooner than expected.
This weekend, I resolved all my car's issues, watched Mike kick ass at softball, picked a bunch of veggies, visited my cats, saw the midnight showing of Harry Potter, tried to organize food and gear for three weeks worth of backpacking, broke my camera (in a way in which the 5 year, very expensive warranty, doesn't cover) retitled my car, dehydrated a ton of fruit and made spent grain granola bars. Mike and I went up to my Grandparent's cabin for two nights too! We went to Glacier and Tamarack Brewery as well as the Mission Mountain Winery and saw the regatta races and the cherry festival in Polson. We played with Beagle Baylea and taught her how to ride in a paddle boat and swim (sort of). And we sat out late on the dock and watched the stars, my favorite.
In the next month, I will be working and backpacking for fun with only one day in the middle that is designated as not in the woods time. Let's all hope the weather is wonderful!

Sunday, July 05, 2009

This weekend, my bunkhouse mate, Stephanie and I went to Seattle. Stephanie hails from New Mexico and has never been to Seattle or anywhere else in the northwest, for that matter. I invite her to come along to Seattle to see Jason Webley's Elevanniversary show. She agreed, especially since her cousin was living on a military base near Seattle and was having a 4th of July/birthday BBQ. This was going to be my first Webley show in a few years. It seems like we have been dancing around each other all over the country and I was never in a town at the right moment to catch a show. Finally, the stars aligned and I was going to see JASON WEBLEY. In the end, while it wasn’t my all-time favorite Webley show, it was still good, a lot of fun, and I'm glad I went.

There was a huge will-call line outside of Townhall, the venue, when we arrived at 7:45. We didn't make it inside until 8:10pm. Apparently, we missed the first performers, Seattle’s Orkestar Zirkonium but they made a second appearence with Jason later. The show itself was divided roughly in half, with the first half devoted to Jason’s friends and collaborators doing short sets on their own, and Jason coming out for the second half. This ended up having some definite pros and cons: on tshohe plus side, we got some more exposure to the people Jason’s been working with over the past few years, all of whom had quite enjoyable sets; however that also meant that Jason himself had a somewhat abbreviated setlist. He didn't play nearly as many songs as he usually does and I didn't hear any of my favorite ballads. He did play a lot of the louder, more exciting, get-everyone-bouncing-around songs though!

The first guest performer up was Andru Bemis, who worked with Jason on the How Big is Tacoma EP, with three of his own songs. Jay Thompson (Eleven Saints) read a few poems. I am so sad that I don't have the Eleven Saints collaboration now. Reverend Peyton, who collaborated with Jason on Two Artichokes and a Bottle of Wine did a couple songs but spent most of his time tuning his guitar. Some of Jason’s goddesses did a silly Billy Joel “We Didn’t Start the Fire”-inspred pseudo-retrospective of Jason’s career, accompanied by only a big bass drum. I don't have Amanda Palmer's collaboration album, Evelyn Evelyn, either. And after her set, I am determined to find it somehow. I am also interested in finding her work with the Dresden Dolls and as a solo artist. After Amanda’s set, we were treated (after some slight technical issues) to a short, four-minute edit of video from Jason’s first public performance from eleven years ago, featuring songs from his first album, Viaje. It was fun to see — younger, shorter hair, a bit more unfinished, but definitely Jason.

Jason performed after the video with his Alex (Sprout) Guy, Jherek Bischoff, and Michael McQuilken. They did a few of Jason’s songs, one from each album including Forever, Once Again, and then he invited his guest performers up one-by-one to perform songs from their collaborative EPs. Before his collaborators started joining him, though, Jason invited onstage one of the first people to welcome Jason into the world of busking when he started all those years ago, Seattle legend Artis the Spoonman, who joined Jason for an incredible performance. After this, Jason and two others changed into white jumpsuits and sunglassed and did a short, bizarre, techno-Devo-ish piece that just seemed odd and out of place.

Next up came a short word about Sunday’s Camp Tomato, along with indoctrinating (or, for many of us, re-indoctrinating) us all into the Tomato Scouts, with both the Tomato Scout Oath and the Tomato Scout Song. Jason read a sweet short story about a boy with a dream of feathers, boats, balloons, tomatoes, and lots of friends, only to wake up to find that the dream was still ongoing. Alex, Jherek and Michael came back on stage and were joined by a string trio of two cellos and one violin. After a few songs, they were joined by the Orkestar Zirkonium and shortly afterwards, Jay Thompson came on for “Eleven Saints."

Many more balloons were launched, both big and small, people got up and danced in the aisles, and the marionette version of Jason from a few years back floated around the room underneath big red balloons. The audience was in a chaos of balloons and dancing and the stage was packed with people and instruments, creating the perfect atmosphere for the grand finale, “Music That Tears Itself Apart."

There was a giant tomato cake over in Freeway Park and Stephanie and I wandered for awhile with other fans to try and find it but were too tired to stay for long and so we headed to my friend's house for the night and slept soundly with visons of balloons and boats and tomatoes running through our dreams.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Backslider's Belgian Wit

Ingredients for Backslider's Wit
The boil
Transfering the Wit to a bucket for bottling ease
Bottled Backslider's Wit
I finally bottled my Belgian Wit! Actually, I am not sure that I ever mentioned that I was brewing beer at all. So yes, I brewed a Belgian Wit several months ago. The recipe goes as follows.
6.75 lbs Dark Wheat Malt Extract
.3 lbs Munich Malt
1 lbs Pilsner Malt
1 Oat Flakes
1.2 oz Hallertuar with 4% alpha acid (60 min)
1.2 oz Kent Hops (5 min)
Fresh orange peels
Pepper corns
Safbrew T-58 yeast - use 4 oz extract and 1.5 L of water to make a slurry
Start with 3 gallons of water at 175 degrees F. Add malts and mash for 30 minutes. Boil 60 minutes. Transfer to the carboy and add 2.5 more gallons of water. Let cool and pitch yeast slurry. I pitched the yeast at 6 am on May 3rd and my 3 pm the krausening rate was 13o bubbles per minute. The original gravity was 1.05. The fermentation slowed remarkable after the initial explosion and the gravity fell slowly. Finally, after 50 days I had a final gravity of 1.011 which would give my beer an alcohol content of about 4 percent. I used about 1.75 cups of dry malt extract to condition the beer before bottling.