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