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yukes and neeves

Tuesday, July 17th, 2018

Recipe: italian marinated porcini mushrooms

If anything has become apparent in the last week, it is this: Neva gives Yuki courage and Yuki helps Neva relax. When Yuki is uncertain or confused, she sits down or gets to a safe place. This is how she has learned to deal with stress and it’s a pretty good coping mechanism.

On a hike last week, we crossed a narrow footbridge that spanned a raging mountain stream. Jeremy and Neva led and then Yuki and I followed. Yuki was doing just fine until we got to the middle of the footbridge and she happened to glance down at the frothing white water below. She froze and crouched low, backing up until she was safely off the bridge. I tried to encourage her, but she wouldn’t budge. I didn’t want to pick her up and carry her across because she needs to learn how to cross bridges. [Note: Neva also had issues first crossing bridges as a puppy – she barked at the bridges, too.] I whistled to Jeremy and had him come back with Neva. Yuki watched as Neva gracefully trotted across the bridge to her. They touched noses and then Jeremy slowly led Neva back onto the bridge, just a few feet in, and waited. Yuki really wanted to be with Neva. You could see her mustering up her little puppy gumption as she placed her front paws on the first boulder step leading to the bridge, tail wagging. She paused, and then went for it! She clambered up onto the footbridge and followed close behind Neva, never looking back. We were so proud of her and proud of Neva for leading by example.


my sweet girls



We brought Yuki out to Crested Butte for the first time this week. It’s a 5+ hour car ride from house to house, and we didn’t know how it would go down. When we packed the girls into the car on Monday morning for our road trip, they each settled into their dog beds. Neva usually cries for a few hours then paces about in her dog bed as prey drive kicks into gear with every vehicle on the road or field of cattle we pass. This time, Neva sat quietly, sniffing the air when the windows were open, and even lying down for a quarter of the trip. Yuki snoozed most of the way. It was by far Neva’s best road trip. My friend, Ellen, says Yuki is Neva’s stable goat. I had to google what a stable goat is, and she’s absolutely right!

yukes and neeves resting on a hike

little pups, big views



Even though it’s early season for porcini, I keep my eyes peeled when I’m on the trails in summer. There are always some early bolters. I recently managed to spy a handful despite wrangling a puppy who is low to the ground and likes to pick up all sorts of things with her mouth. It was nice to introduce Yuki to the porcini because “porcini” is her release word (“raspberry” is Neva’s release word).

remember this scent, young padawan



I don’t know if the kings (porcini, king boletes, boletus rubriceps) will flush this year like they did last year. One can only hope for two consecutive years of crazy goodness. If they do, I plan to make more of these Italian marinated porcini because I cried real tears when I polished off my last jar from the 2017 season. The recipe comes from Hank Shaw’s most excellent Hunter Angler Gardener Cook blog. It’s a winner. There aren’t many ingredients, but the technique requires time. It took me about a day. Do you need to use porcini? Hank recommends meaty mushrooms, like boletes or cremini or shiitake. Meaty.

fresh porcini, salt, olive oil, vinegar, lemon, oregano, red chili

slice the porcini 1/2-inch thick



If you’ve worked with porcini before, you’ll know that the more mature mushrooms have yellow pores attached to the cap. Hank peels these off (and dries and grinds them for porcini powder) because he says they acquire an unpleasant texture during the pickling. Since I was using mostly bouchons, I left the pores – which are cream colored when young – in place and they were fine.

A large percentage of fresh porcini is water. We remove the water by laying the mushroom slices on a layer of salt, and then sprinkling more salt on top of the mushrooms and allow them to sit for a couple of hours. This draws out the water until you have mushroom slices in a salty slurry. Press each slice between paper towels to extract more moisture. If you have cuts on your hands, I highly recommend using some disposable gloves to handle the mushrooms. Because… OW!


sprinkle the salt on top of the mushrooms

let the mushrooms sit for a few hours

water is drawn out of the mushrooms

press more moisture out of the slices



**Jump for more butter**

very awesome

Tuesday, July 10th, 2018

Recipe: huckleberry crème brûlée

In the 12 days since Yuki joined our pack we’ve procured an extra baby gate, an extra dog crate, an extra dog bed, a Nylabone chew toy, another Nylabone chew toy (because… Neva), a puppy harness, and other things that make pups and humans happy. In some ways, Yuki transports us back to the puppy training days and in many ways she is like no puppy we have ever encountered. Yuki is a little dream girl. I’m openly glad that the few people who inquired about her flaked out, because she’s our girl now and we are so in love with her.

Of course, any dog in our household undergoes Butter Boot Camp so they are ready to hit the high country, swim in alpine lakes, and have fun in the snow! We’ve been hiking Yuki to build up her miles and strengthen her paw pads so we can take her on longer, more exciting hikes. This morning, she had her first ever swim! And we found some snow for her to romp on. Such progress. You can follow daily updates on my personal Instagram account.


this little one is gonna get used to a camera/phone

the pups resting in shade

we hike in the mornings while it is still cool out

my hike with banjo (and erin) on yuki’s and neva’s rest day

yuki, neva, and jeremy enjoying the wildflowers

splashing and playing in the water



On the days we don’t hike, we walk (it’s still a hike – everything around here is trails) the girls to the soccer field and let Neva fetch while Yuki gets training. It’s great because Neva is so focused on her tennis ball that she ignores Yuki, and Yuki is so focused on either me or Jeremy that she mostly ignores Neva with the occasional chase. Over the weekend we had some folks over for dinner and both pups behaved better than we could have dreamed! We are easing Yuki into crate training because we don’t want to traumatize her, but we also need her to be safe when we aren’t home. As of now she is handling 1-2 hour stints without much issue and we will gradually work up to longer periods. We leave the door open when we are home and she likes to wander in there for naps or to ask for food. Feeding her in the crate makes it a happy association and also keeps food-obsessed Neva from trying to eat puppy kibble. I think Yuki will get the hang of it quickly like she has everything else. I imagine she’ll transition to sweet sweet freedom in the house sooner than Neva did.

these two are getting along just fine



The pups are playing tug as I type and I have one eye on the computer monitor and one eye on them as they weave a little path of destruction around the great room. Managing puppy and everything else (i.e. life) is quite the exercise. Jeremy and I trade off who gets to leave the house for extended periods of time and who gets to work (actually work) during the active hours. When they both fall asleep, we get a few hours of quiet and concentration.

When my pal, Erin, and I went for a hike recently, we checked in on several huckleberry locations. The plants were heavy with lots of berries in the green pea stage. We used to get super excited about the green peas, anticipating a good huckleberry crop. We didn’t realize that not all green peas become purple huckleberries for various reasons (drought being one of them). Now we know better. Life in the mountains is tough. The diminutive mountain huckleberry endures much hardship to eventually ripen into the very best berry on the planet. They are precious. You only need a few spoonfuls of the purple berries to elevate something like crème brûlée into a dreamier version of itself.


eggs, cream, sugar, sugar, vanilla bean, huckleberries

heat the cream

scrape the vanilla seeds from the pod

steep the vanilla seeds and the pod in the hot cream



**Jump for more butter**

don’t be so certain

Monday, July 2nd, 2018

Recipe: homemade beef jerky for dogs

In my younger years, I used to make all manner of declarations. I would never do X. I will always do Y. I’m not sure if it is age or simply life that has shown me how ridiculous I sound being so rigid, so certain. Because there have been plenty of times when I was wrong. I always assumed we would be a single-dog family, and I always thought it would be a Labrador retriever in my house.

It was several weeks ago when I saw a cute little puppy cross my Instagram feed. Her name was Abbie, and RezDawg Rescue, based in Denver, was trying to find her a home. She had a very serious look about her 4 month old face and there seemed to be a hint of sadness in her eyes. So cute, I thought. She’ll be snatched up in no time. Then a couple of weeks ago, Abbie came up again in my Instagram. I couldn’t understand how she hadn’t been been adopted yet. Throughout the day, I mulled over this little girl and began to feel personally wounded that no one wanted her. For the next few nights, I would read her description after Jeremy had fallen asleep, and then I would cry quietly in the dark. I kept it to myself, until I didn’t.

I mentioned Abbie to Jeremy just over a week ago. The look he gave me was one of dread. We had only recently arrived at the point where we could live semi-normal lives with Neva. I knew Jeremy did not want a second dog, but he asked me if this was what I wanted. I didn’t know. I didn’t want a second dog. I didn’t want to introduce uncertainty and potential chaos into our delicately balanced life with Neva. But I knew we could give Abbie a good and happy home and I felt I just wanted to love her. I already loved her. Tears. What to do?

Jeremy suggested to find out if she had been adopted.

She hadn’t been.

Then we asked if we could meet her.


meeting puppy in her foster home

puppy with her foster family



Abbie’s foster family had two of their own dogs, a cat, and a handful of foster pups. Linda, Abbie’s amazing foster mother, told me if she didn’t already have two dogs, she would have kept Abbie. I could see why. Abbie was a calm, sweet, gentle girl when we met her. A little shy, definitely puppy, and interested in people and animals. We left after our visit feeling that she was a good fit for us. It was clear that Linda loved Abbie and had provided a safe and nurturing environment for her. I was told by RezDawg Rescue that Linda wanted to make sure Abbie went to the best possible match. Suddenly I worried that we wouldn’t make the cut. Driving home, I stared ahead into the night and said aloud, “We’re good dog owners, right? I mean, we can give her a good life, right?”

The next 24 hours were a whirlwind of cleaning Neva’s old puppy crates and toys, writing down new items we needed to get for the puppy, getting the house ready for a puppy, and running through my long list of potential puppy names. It is my tendency to want to name the dog before I meet her, but with every dog we have, Jeremy insists that we get to know their personality before choosing a name. He is right, of course.

Abbie came home with us Thursday night. She took in the new surroundings cautiously, but adjusted quickly. Neva freaked out. WHAT IS THIS PUPPY THING YOU BROUGHT HOME?!?! Neva was scared of the puppy, and yet Abbie seemed to feel comforted by Neva’s (spazzed out) presence. Linda had noted that Abbie would do well with another dog to give her some confidence. We could see that right away. She would shrink from the yard the first night unless Neva was out there with her.

Over the next two days Abbie became Yuki. We tested other names, but they didn’t fit. Yuki can mean snow or happiness or courage in Japanese. We like all three. Little Yuki is the dream puppy we never had until now. At 5 months (and 32 pounds), she sleeps through the night in a crate, has a very generous (to us) potty schedule of 6-8 hours, learns quickly, and walks quite well on a leash. She likes our vet. Yuki is adjusting so well and beginning to spread her wings.


yuki at the soccer field

she looks sad, but she’s really happy

resting easy in her forever home



My greatest concern was Neva. Would a puppy push Neva over the edge? The first night seemed to stress our girl out – a little puppy jumping on her head and sleeping in her beds and dragging her toys around. If Yuki tried to squeeze into a doggy bed with Neva, Neva would immediately jump out and run away. When we took the dogs to the soccer field for a fetch session, Neva was elated to chase her ball and utterly dismayed to find Yuki stalking and chasing her every move. The two really turned a corner on their first hike. Both were well-behaved (amazing for Neva!). We could see that Yuki sought out Neva’s presence when she wanted reassurance – like when that really tall male hiker passed her – and Neva didn’t mind the little pup sidling up to her with a gentle body check. As Yuki bounded clumsily down the trail chasing butterflies, Neva patiently waited in the shade with Jeremy until we caught up.

I worried that getting a good and sweet and calm puppy, basically the opposite of Neva when she was a wee one, would make me love Neva less. But after observing the way Neva has put on her big sister pants and is helping Yuki navigate this new mountain life, I love her more than ever. I think the addition of Yuki to our family has been good for her, for Neva, and for us. Just a few weeks ago I was certain that we’d always be a single-dog family. I’ve never been so happy to be wrong.


we are now a pack of four

yuki in the flowers, ready for a treat



Training Yuki has been easier than training both Kaweah and Neva at the same age. The number one priority on our list was house training Yuki because she wasn’t housebroken when we got her. She knew how to use potty pads, but we needed her to be able to potty outside and to let us know when she needed to go. That involved a combination of crate training, constant vigilance, and positive reinforcement. That first 24 hours we took Yuki out to the yard almost every hour because of our very stressful experience with Neva as a puppy. But Yuki only needed to potty every 6-8 hours – the rest of the trips she spent sniffing the yard and lazily walking around, sometimes lying down and turning her belly up to the sun. We were amazed and impressed and overjoyed. When she did actually potty, we immediately praised her (“good potty!”) and gave her a treat. Our favorite treat to work with happened to be a homemade beef jerky I made for Neva back in May.

Unlike many of the other treats or kibble, the homemade beef jerky wasn’t oily or sticky or crumby, which made it particularly easy to carry around in our pockets. It didn’t have a strong odor and broke into small pieces easily. And both dogs absolutely love it because… beef. I started making beef jerky because I recently acquired a dehydrator for preserving wild mushrooms. I typically purchase 3-4 pounds of eye of round at my Costco because it is lean and relatively inexpensive compared to other cuts they carry. You can also use flank steak or sirloin – as long as it is lean because fat reduces the shelf life of the jerky.


eye of round

trimming any excess fat



**Jump for more butter**