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of the rain, sun, and earth

Sunday, July 30th, 2017

Recipe: fig vodka infusion and fig blossom cocktail

Right as rain. That phrase used to puzzle me until I started living in the western U.S. Blessed rain is a relief, a cleanser, a gift. It’s like a reset button on all of that heat, the dust, the pollution, the wilted plants, the beleaguered creatures. I can’t tell you how many rainbows I’ve been sighting in the early mornings this past week. Some persist for several minutes and others appear, glow, and diminish in the span of 30 seconds – faster than I can grab my gear. In those instances, I don’t get upset like I used to. I do kick myself a little for missing a great opportunity, but I’ve learned to stop and simply take it in. Those magic moments when Jeremy is still asleep and Neva is sitting politely facing the dog food (her way of asking to eat dinner, which is breakfast or any meal) and there is no other conscious human around with whom to share the beauty… I’ve learned.


managed to capture this one



Jeremy and I planned on a big mileage trail run for a morning that had been forecasted to have overcast skies. By that morning, the forecast had changed to sun and heat and yuck. We scrapped our plans for a run, Neva jumped into the car, and we set off for a hike so everyone could get a little exercise. What was supposed to be a quick two-hour hike turned into a 6-hour forage. Some huckleberry patches were full on ripe, which was a surprise since the last two years totally sucked for huckleberries. I picked a few and offered one to Neva, who knows to actually chew a huckleberry (she doesn’t seem to chew much else, though). The instant she tasted it, she turned to the huckleberry bushes and began to eat them off the plants!

beautiful precious wonderful beloved huckleberries



Erin and I haven’t been able to coordinate a hike yet this summer, but we dutifully exchange trail reports to maximize our coverage and knowledge of The State of the Mushrooms (and huckleberries, but hucks are a separate matter for us). Our neck of the woods has been a late bloomer compared to other parts of the state who have been receiving their monsoonal blessings earlier and more than we have. As Jeremy and I hiked and Neva practically propelled herself up the trail by happily wagging her tail, I thought to myself that it would be nice to find one king – to find my first porcini of the season. Well, I found about eighty and harvested less than half. Talk about a flush. In a week, we went from seeing a few random mushrooms that nobody wants to the kings and queens of the forest fungi. I even found three beautiful patches of chanterelles which I’ve never found on the Front Range before this season (we typically forage them in the Central Mountains).

my beautiful little friend

another perfect bouchon

a party of five (one in the distant upper left and the fifth off camera)

chanterelles emerging

strawberries and cream (not edible, but a favorite for its crazy weirdness and awesome name)

kings and queens: porcini and chanterelles



That was just my share. I gave Erin and Jay the other half of the porcini because they love them and know how to process them, and because I simply didn’t have the time to deal with that many. Foraging has a way of sending summer into a frenzy, especially when you spend the entire weekend in Hunter Education, which we (Jeremy and I) did.

neva is intrigued



Foraging is one of those activities that demands your time up front. You don’t forage when you feel like it, you forage when the mushrooms flush or when the berries are ripe. And you don’t dump them in your refrigerator to rot over the next week or two, you deal with them within a day lest the worms you didn’t dispatch when you field dressed your mushrooms eat through the rest of your prize. It’s irresponsible and unethical to take these treasures from the land and waste them. I suppose I have a similar mindset when I am at Costco. Sometimes Costco carries something special and rare and if you go back the following week, it might be all gone. So you grab one or two packages of those fresh figs in mid summer when you didn’t expect to see them for another month and then you wrack your brain on the drive home thinking of all the fig recipes you had written on your to do list and then you remember the easiest one of all: fig vodka infusion.

fresh figs

figs and vodka (that’s all you need)



**Jump for more butter**

life outside

Sunday, July 9th, 2017

Recipe: coconut shrimp

For the first time in a long time, I have no photos of the July 4th fireworks this year. We can get a sense of how Neva will react to the fireworks because the nights leading up to the Fourth of July always have at least one or two houses in the community setting off their own (granted, there are a lot of out-of-towners who flock to Crested Butte over the July 4th holiday who love their fireworks). From what we could tell, Neva wasn’t a fan. So when the official celebration took place on the mountain and the several ancillary light shows erupted in the neighborhood, little Neva smashed herself in the corner of the kitchen, or squeezed herself between me and the cabinets while I prepared a late dinner, or trembled against Jeremy on the sofa. It made me very sad because all we could do to make her feel less scared was to hold her tight and offer words of reassurance that probably didn’t reassure her at all. When the evening was over, we let her sleep on the bed with us and promised her the remainder of the week would be filled with puppy fun time.

And Neva had a great week of hiking, swimming, fetching, jumping off the paddleboards and climbing back on dozens of times. She ran alongside Jeremy while he rode his bike, got extra walkies, and met up with lots of puppy friends (Poncho, Bella, Peaches, to name a few). All of this activity means she gets rest days, too. Rest days for Neva translate into trail running days or SUP days for us. We all get time outside, because time outside is good for us physically and mentally.


eyes on the prize (the orange tennis ball)

tuckered out and resting on the custom pillow i made just for neva to use on the windowsill

float time with a view of the ruby range

elephant head in bloom

mule ears greet the sun

a painterly sunset



We typically hunker down at home over the weekends to get work done and to avoid weekend crowds, but we got up early on Saturday (early enough that *I* woke Neva rather than the other way around!) to beat the heat and take Neva on her longest hike to date (14+ miles). The trail is appropriately named Oh Be Joyful because it follows Oh Be Joyful Creek up verdant Oh Be Joyful Valley. Hiking up, we took note of a dozen beautiful waterfalls and cascades spilling down the steep southern walls of the glacial valley and feeding the swift and cold creek. The wildflowers are not yet at peak, but many varieties were showing off their colors in bright, happy displays. The high country’s snowpack is melting in earnest under the summer sun, which meant countless stream crossings and muddy slogs on our hike. At the end of the valley, we turned south and ascended part of the headwall, traversing slushy snowfields to the cirque where Blue Lake is perched at 11,100 feet. The stoke was high for Neva until maybe mile 10 when we paused in the shade for an apple break. Instead of standing alert for every whiff of marmot, pika, or other critter, she laid down in the grass and ate her apple pieces, looking rather content with her doggy life.

shooting stars (magenta) and kings crown (red) mingle by a stream

jeremy and neva hike through fields of blooming osha

nearing the end of the valley

carpets of marsh marigolds and glacier lilies

from the headwall, looking across to democrat basin

at last, blue lake

pausing at the edge of the lake before neva’s swim-fetch session



For two months each year, my parents are in Boulder to escape the oppressive summers of Southern Virginia. The other ten months of the year I get occasional phone calls, emails, and lots of texts from them. I taught them how to text when they got their first iphones just a few years ago, and now both parents (in their mid-70s) make liberal use of emojis and send me photos of their meals! I kinda love it. Food is very much a thing with my family. When I find a new recipe that I really like, I make note to share it with my parents when I see them in the summer. Of course, that is getting harder to do ever since I introduced Dad to sous vide steak a few weeks ago. I’m not sure when I’ll be able to cook anything other than sous vide steak when we get together with my folks because he is OBSESSED. I even Amazon Primed Dad his own sous vide before I left for Crested Butte so he wouldn’t have to wait for me to come back to the Front Range (with my sous vide…).

If I’m lucky, I’ll squeeze a few new recipes into our gatherings – because that is what my parents and I do – we share new wonderful things with one another. I think that’s one way that we express our love in my family, along with yelling and texting questions that Google can answer and sharing carwash coupons. Coconut shrimp has been around for ages, but I hadn’t tried it until this past winter. Of course, after I made it and tasted it, I kicked myself for not having tried it earlier. It’s simple and straightforward, but it is also addictive and delicious. I’m fairly certain Mom and Dad will like it.


coconut, sugar, salt, egg whites, cayenne, cornstarch, raw shrimp

place the cornstarch, salt, and cayenne in a large ziploc bag

mix the sugar and coconut together

peel, de-vein, and butterfly the shrimp (leave tails on!)



**Jump for more butter**

this land

Monday, July 3rd, 2017

Recipe: spruce tip syrup and the muir cocktail

It’s a long holiday weekend here in the States! Summer is in full swing and the mountains no longer require skis to access the high country. I have been itching to get more trail time, both hiking and trail running, without the distraction of mushroom foraging. It’s mostly past morel season and too soon for the other mushrooms I forage in my neck(s) of the woods. Soon, but not this day. Now is the time to get outside and admire the hillsides that are under snow for much of the year because that snow has given way to the most spectacular wildflowers. This is a special time in the high country – that short window of summer when life explodes with color and activity and those precious things that are so easy to overlook and take for granted.


take a hike!!

mountain bluebells and buttercups

moss campion

silky phacelia

jeremy and neva hiking the continental divide

neva waits for a snack after swimming in the lake



Hiking for us means hiking for Neva, too. We are seeing incremental improvements with her behavior on trail and especially around distractions like other dogs and hikers. But the most amazing thing has been the new car, or rather, how Neva feels about it. Neva’s cool with the Forester! We’re not entirely sure what made the difference, but she now voluntarily jumps into the back with gusto. Her enthusiasm for our destinations means we have traded nervous drooling for excited crying. I’ll take it. And since we arrived in Crested Butte last Thursday, she has been running into the garage to wait for us to open the back of the car. She used to be afraid of the garage because it had The Car, but I suppose it was really The Other Car. Who is this dog?!? Neva has also been getting more time on the water, learning to swim back to us on the SUPs (stand up paddleboards) instead of heading toward shore. Now if only we could teach her not to be afraid of the fireworks that will inevitably go off tomorrow (there are some being set off as I type and Neva is cowering under my desk at my feet).

a jewel-colored stormy sunset in crested butte

the lupine are at peak

neva rides along as we raft our paddleboards together

a happy dog on a happy hike

running down after climbing up

blue columbines lined parts of the trail

scarlet gilia being all red and racy!



A couple of weeks ago when Erin and I were hiking in to forage morel mushrooms, I pointed to the spruce trees lining the side of the trail. Just a few days earlier, Hank Shaw of Hunter Angler Gardener Cook linked to his post on spruce tip syrup and I made a mental note to try it. The branches are typically covered in sturdy dark green needles, but in late spring, our conifers send out new growth like everything else in the mountains. The tender tips of the branches emerge a lighter green and smell of evergreens with a touch of citrus. If left alone, they will mature and darken to match the rest of the tree. But during this period, you can pluck some of the tips to make spruce tip syrup or fir tip or pine tip syrup – whatever you have got – just don’t pick yew because it’s toxic. I grabbed a ziploc bag (I always carry extra bags because you never know what you’re going to collect in the mountains) and began selecting delicate tips, taking care not to pick the tops of baby trees or pulling too many from the same branch or tree.

new growth on a spruce tree

spruce tips

spruce tips, water, sugar, and lemon (optional)



**Jump for more butter**