Friday, December 24, 2010

Pictures and Places of 2010

One excuse for my recent lack of posting is our need of a fully functioning camera. We hope to have a new one soon. Until then, here are some photos from my favorite places in 2010. It was a great year to explore some new sites and revisit old stomping grounds.

Dog on a rock in Butte, Montana


Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge, western Montana


National Bison Range, western Montana


Metolius River, central Oregon


Cascade Mountains, central Oregon


Downtown Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania


Cape Arago, southern Oregon coast


Port Orford Heads State Park, southern Oregon coast


Andie enjoying the sun on her new back deck


From our Village to yours, Happy New Year !

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving cold snap

Last week we kicked off our holiday season with the coldest temperatures of the year in western Oregon. It was also the coldest time we have spent in our house, which we first found a year ago this week.

In preparation for the cold, I sealed up the crawl space vents, covered the lettuces in the garden, and filled the feeders for the birds.

We took several bird watching trips to keep the blood flowing during the long weekend, beginning with the Sandy River Delta on Thanksgiving Day.

The dog loved the off-leash trails at the Delta. She investigated many interesting finds such as this beaver chew.

On Sunday, I went with some in-laws on a fishing trip to Columbia River Gorge. I was hoping to catch my first steelhead, which I have been trying to get since moving to Oregon five years ago.

Success! I hooked two and landed one. This was a catch-and-release area, so I turned her loose to continue her travels.

With a new house in a wonderful neighborhood and beautiful places to visit, we have plenty to celebrate this year!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Tomato Season (sort of)

We are usually inundated with ripe tomatoes during the month of October, but this year has been a bit slow in terms of warm-weather produce production.

Luckily, I still have a few tomatoes to work with.

I quartered some and stewed them for winter soup broths.

I also blended some into a paste and cooked it down with diced onions and dry herbs to make a pizza sauce. I will use our remaining tomatoes to make a broth for tortilla soup, which we will bring to a birthday party tonight.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

South Coast beach finds

Sarah and I recently returned from our fourth annual September vacation. We chose the south Oregon Coast this year, where Sarah lived for a while as an undergrad at the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology.

We took in many great views such as the one above at Port Orford Heads State Park.

As usual, we found many intersting things in the sand during our daily beach walks.

There were some wild fish skulls near a seafood plant at the Port of Port Orford near our motel.

At Cape Blanco's beach, the westernmost in the Lower 48, we found a Red-necked Phalarope that, though dead, was in great shape. These little shorebirds winter in coastal bays swimming in search of food.

On a rockier beach, we found the champion of intertidal grazing mollusks, the gumboot chiton.

These creatures resemble large, eyeless slugs with a velvety dorsal side and a squishy belly.

Now that we have met our coastal time quota, we hope to return to work on our many home and garden projects.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Summer Projects

As with previous summers, I have been busy during recent weeks. I have been preparing two projects that went on display last Friday.

The first was a painting of a Black Oystercatcher for a show at our community art center. It is now on display with other works from artists who live or work in Multnomah Village.

The other was a research poster I brought to the Ecological Society of America meetings in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Unlike the painting, which will be up until September, the poster was on display for only a couple of hours.

Until last week, I had never visited the northeast portion of the country, so I had been looking forward to this five-day trip all summer. Despite the heavy humidity, I enjoyed every day I spent in the city. There is a lot optimism here, due to a boom in academic spending and sustainable building, which have replaced many of the jobs lost during the industry shutdowns of the 1980s.


Thursday morning, I took a quick trip to Frick Park in the Squirrel Hill district. In the early morning fog, I found a luna moth and several "eastern" bird species I had not seen or heard in several years.

Later that afternoon, dozens of Pirates fans and I crossed the Allegheny river on the Roberto Clemente Bridge to catch a baseball game. The Pirates beat the Rockies 5-1.

Now that my poster and oystercatcher projects are complete, I can see the finish line of my summer busy season.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Recipe of the Week #7

After returning from a trip to the east, I was eager to get into our garden to pull some weeds and pick veggies for cooking.

Many of my favorite dishes to prepare in late summer and early fall include a tasty combination of tomatoes, eggplants and summer squash. Last night I cooked my first dish of this sort of the year because I needed to use some summer squashes and an eggplant from our CSA. I also had some leftover pasta on hand, as well as one last container of last year's tomato sauce. I combined them all into the dish described below.


Eggplant and Summer Squash Pasta Bake

Ingredients
Several small summer squash and eggplants
Tomato sauce
Bread crumbs
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
Grated Parmesan cheese

Instructions
Brush bottom of a baking dish with olive oil and sprinkle a thin layer of bread crumbs over the bottom. Add a layer of pasta above the breadcrumbs. Dice eggplants and squash into approximately 1 inch cubes. Toss cubes with salt and olive oil, then place on a baking sheet. Put baking sheet in the oven and broil until they start to brown. Stir occasionally to ensure that multiple sides have browned. Keep an eye on the oven to make sure they don't burn. When browned, spoon the squash and eggplant on top of the pasta.


Sprinkle Parmesan and cover vegetables with tomato sauce. Add another layer of pasta, another layer of tomato sauce, then more breadcrumbs and Parmesan. Place into the oven and bake at 350 until breadcrumbs and cheese begin to brown on top. Serve immediately.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Produce update

I have not posted a recipe for several weeks for a couple of reasons. First, due to wisdom teeth removal, I spent a week eating food that was not very exciting. Second, I have been busy wrapping up several projects that need finishing by the end of the month. More on those later.

Despite my lack posting, good food is being produced in our yard and at local farms. More recipes are on the way.


This week, we made our annual trip to West Union Farms to stock up on berries for the year. We hit the Blackberry Jackpot and now have a full freezer.

Our first backyard squash blossom arrived yesterday! I hope the flowers to attract plenty of bumblebees to our garden.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Recipe of the Week #6

During the 4th of July weekend, Sarah and I enjoyed some down time tending to our house and garden.

Our cool-season crops such as beets, radishes, and greens had grown quite rapidly and were in need some thinning.

I pulled several small beets from a crowded row, but I did not want to waste their tiny bulbs and delicate greens, so I came up with an simple recipe to uses both parts.



Sauteed Micro Beets


Ingredients
Young beets
Olive oil
Salt and Pepper

Instructions
Remove all but the most tender stalks and leaves from each beet. Rinse the bulb thoroughly and snip off the root tips. To ensure beets are evenly cooked, slice the largest bulbs in half lengthwise. Cover frying pan with a thin layer of olive oil and bring to medium heat. Add beets and salt and pepper to taste. Saute for several minutes, until leaves are wilted and slightly browned. Finish cooking the beets by adding a small amount of water to the pan. Cover and let steam for ten minutes. When the largest bulb is easily pierced with a fork, remove all from heat and enjoy.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Recipe of the Week #5

Multi-purpose Tahini Sauce

While in Pacific City last weekend, I crafted a quick tahini sauce as a topping for tempeh tacos, which were inspired by a dish at Cafe Mundo in Newport.

During the next few days, I used the remainder of the sauce for dipping vegetables, such as radishes, that are now growing like crazy in our garden.


Ingredients

Tahini (a spread of roasted sesame seeds)
Soy sauce
Lemon juice (can be substituted by other acids such as vinegar or orange juice)
Finely chopped scallions (green onions)

Instructions

Place several spoonfuls of tahini into a mixing bowl (I used about 5 tablespoons). Stir in juice of one lemon and the chopped scallions (I used three small scallions). Add soy sauce, stir, and taste, adding more until level of desired saltiness in achieved. Adjust to desired consistency by adding water or more tahini. Place in the refrigerator for several hours before serving to let the flavors blend.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Recipe of the Week #4


Grilled Portabella and Scallion Fajitas

While planning our trip to central Oregon, we decided to cook dinner using the barbecue provided by our motel. We wanted to grill something local and veggie, so we packed some portabella mushrooms and scallions (green onions).

Ingredients:

Large Portabella Mushrooms
Olive oil
Cumin
Salt
Scallions
Flour Tortillas
Toppings such as lettuce, avocado, cheese, or salsa

Instructions

Light briquettes in barbecue. Remove stems and scrape dark brown gills of off undersides of mushrooms. Brush each mushroom with oil and sprinkle with salt and cumin. Place mushrooms stem-side down over coals and move from heat if they start to blacken. When mushrooms have collapsed a bit, flip them and cook until moisture has stopped bubbling up from center. Place scallions over coals and remove them when they are tender and just starting to blacken.
Warm tortillas over the grill for a few seconds on each side. Slice mushrooms into strips and place into warmed tortillas along with scallions and selected toppings. Eat immediately, preferably outside.

Central Oregon Birds

Sarah and I decided to take a weekend trip to central Oregon to enjoy the sunny weather and see some birds that are unique to the east side of the Cascades.

We drove to Camp Sherman on Friday afternoon, stayed in a small motel near the Metolius River, and returned to Portland Sunday evening.

On Saturday, we spent a long day birding a variety of habitats such as pine forests, riparian areas, and wildfire sites.

It was great to see drycountry birds like Pinyon Jays and Green-tailed Towhees while taking in amazing views of the Cascade peaks. We can't wait to return next year!

Birds:

Canada Goose
Mallard
Common Merganser
Common Goldeneye
Bald Eagle
Turkey Vulture
Osprey
Red-tailed Hawk
American Kestrel
Virginia Rail
Mourning Dove
Rock Pigeon
Band-tailed Pigeon
Common Nighthawk
Calliope Hummingbird
Belted Kingfisher
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Red-breasted Sapsucker
Red-naped Sapsucker
White-headed Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Olive-sided Flycatcher
Western Wood-pewee
Pacific Slope Flycatcher
Dusky Flycatcher
Western Kingbird
Warbling Vireo
Cassin's Vireo
Steller's Jay
Western Scrub Jay
American Crow
Common Raven
Violet Green Swallow
Barn Swallow
Mountain Chickadee
Red-breasted Nuthatch
Pygmy Nuthatch
Brown Creeper
House Wren
American Dipper
Western Bluebird
American Robin
Swainson's Thrush
Cedar Waxwing
Yellow Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Macgilivary's Warbler
Black-throated Gray Warbler
Western Tanager
Black-headed Grosbeak
Spotted Towhee
Green-tailed Towhee
Chipping Sparrow
Chipping Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Fox Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Brown-headed Cowbird
Red-winged Blackbird
Brewer's Blackbird
Cassin's Finch
Pine Siskin
Red Crossbill
House Sparrow

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Recipe of the week #3

We had a backlog of leeks from our CSA, so this weekend I made potato leek soup following instructions in The Complete America's Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook (highly recommended). Their soup recipes call for chicken broth and we only cook vegetarian, so I made a veggie broth using items from our refrigerator, freezer, and backyard. I adapted this recipe from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone (our cooking bible).

Spring Veggie Broth

Ingredients:

Frozen winter squash
Green parts of leeks
Garlic cloves
Fresh parsley
Fresh thyme
Fresh oregano
Bay leaf
Olive oil
Nutritional yeast
Salt


Instructions

Heat olive oil (2 tablespoons) in a dutch oven. Chop leek parts (I used the tops of 5 small leeks) and rinse well to remove mud. Dice garlic ( 2 cloves) and add to oil with the leeks and squash pieces (I used four 3-inch strips). Add nutritional yeast (1 tablespoon) and salt to taste. When garlic has caramelized (about 5 minutes) add water (two quarts is enough for one large pot of soup), bay leaf, thyme (3 sprigs), parsley (3 sprigs), and oregano (3 sprigs). Bring to a boil, then lower heat to a slow boil and cook uncovered for 3o minutes. Pour through a mesh strainer into a large bowl and taste for seasoning. Add more salt if desired.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Gardening in the Sun

We took advantage of break in our rainy weather to catch up on some gardening. We now have patches scattered around our front and back yards full of seeds and starts.

Along the side of our driveway, we covered our strawberries and blueberries with netting to keep the birds out.

A few feet away, I constructed a tomato frame and planted a few squash seeds.

In the back, our raised bed is now full of plants in various stages of development.

I finally weeded the old garden, whose peonies are now in bloom.

Finally, we added some soil to an open patch of clay. We planted sunflowers and squash in hopes of big yellow flowers this summer. Another 1.3 inches of rain fell on Sunday, but some sun is expected for the rest of the week. Between our gardens and CSA membership, we should have plenty of food to work with this summer. More recipes to come!

Friday, June 4, 2010

20 days of rain

It has been one of the wettest springs on record in western Oregon. Rainfall totals in May were much higher than the usually wetter month of February. On Friday, we reached 20 straight days of at least some precipitation. I am used to soggy springs and I like interesting weather events, so I refuse to join the ceaseless complaining of the local tv anchorpersons.

We have had one rain-related casualty in our yard, however. One of our rose bushes has fallen. Hopefully it can be saved.

Our gardens have been soaked, but our cold-season plants such as radishes and greens have fared well despite heavy slug predation.

We now wait for a dry and sunny stretch to plant our warm-season seeds.