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Thursday, July 24th, 2014

Recipe: huckleberry fudge

We returned to Nederland a couple of days ago only to be greeted by a furnace blast of a heat wave. Man, is it hot – even in the mountains! We usually find relief at night when we can draw cool air into the house (most mountain homes don’t have air conditioning as we usually don’t need it), but the evenings haven’t offered much of that either. I feel such ambivalence toward summer. On the one hand I cannot stand the heat and I hide from the sun as much as I can, but on the other hand it is the short time when tons of fun and beautiful things happen.

I stopped by the vet’s office on Wednesday afternoon and told the assistant at the desk that I was there to receive Kaweah’s ashes. She walked to the back and looked at four different sized boxes and picked up a medium-ish one. Instead of handing it to me across the front desk, she came around to where I stood and offered me a hug and said she was so sorry. I thought I was getting better about keeping it together when people gave their condolences, but apparently I wasn’t. Blinking back tears, I thanked her and she told me how much the office loved Kaweah and what a remarkable little girl she was. Stepping outside the office into the breeze coming off the mountains, I cradled the box in my arms. It’s so light – so much lighter than the 55 pounds of pup we were used to carrying around in her old age… 55 pounds of mostly water and carbon, reduced to carbon. I know this isn’t my Kaweah. My Kaweah is gone. But she’s also in my heart – so not really gone.


kaweah’s ashes and two framed photos – one for her vet and one for us



Thursday morning presented itself at 5:30 am. That decision, of whether or not to get up and get outside when you’re short on sleep, can be a tough one. I know from experience that I usually won’t regret getting up, but I might regret not getting up. Our dedication was rewarded first thing in the morning with wildlife sightings, colorful wildflowers strewn across the meadows like confetti, and clear views of the high country.

that’s a moose

a big moose

don’t mess with the moose

potpourri

morning light on delicate blossoms

looking east

the indian peaks high country



It is a great time to catch wildflowers in the mountains around here. They seem to be peaking around 10,000 feet right now. Believe it or not, my whole motivation for hiking was not to see moose or the wildflowers (but both are TOTALLY BONUS!!), it was to check on the huckleberries. Oh, and to get exercise, but… huckleberries. They were green and plumping up nicely in Crested Butte on my last trail run. Here in the Front Range, they’re a little behind their Crested Butte brethren. Still, it’s coming along nicely. Hiking is my finger on the pulse of the hucks.

green hucks in crested butte



What do I plan to do with the huckleberries? Well, I’m glad you asked. I’ve been planning ALL YEAR for this moment in time. One of the treats I’ve been wanting to make is huckleberry fudge. If you’ve ever traveled to Montana and visited a gift shop, you will have seen and possibly sampled huckleberry fudge. I did just that (many) years ago when Jeremy and I took a 6-week detour through the Rocky Mountains on our cross-country move from Pasadena, California to Ithaca, New York. I’m not a big fan of fudge, but huckleberry fudge is something else entirely.

white chocolate, cream cheese, powdered sugar, huckleberry jam



**Jump for more butter**

to huck with it

Sunday, July 6th, 2014

Recipe: huckleberry jam

There is never a dull moment in summer. It feels like EVERYTHING happens at the same time! At least it felt that way last week. I suppose that’s to be expected right before a major summer holiday weekend. Or maybe it’s the heat? The heat makes me lose my mind. Luckily, I managed to up my longest distance to a 20.6 mile run on the coolest day of the week. Then I spent a good bit of time prepping food for our Fourth of July barbecue. Originally we had planned to have my parents and several of our friends up for dinner and then fireworks at our local reservoir. But our town, Nederland, has decided to stop doing its annual fireworks display this year, so everyone came over to our place and just ate a ton of food.


our natural version of a fireworks display



Kaweah was not doing well in the days leading up to the party. It worried us enough to think that this week we’d have to take her in for one last visit at the vet’s office. During the party, the loud voices and commotion stressed her out even though she was safely sequestered on another floor. After most guests had left, we brought her up to the main floor and she immediately hid in the office. I went to bed that night trying to prepare myself for the inevitable and crying into the darkness. The next day was dedicated to Kaweah. We didn’t move any furniture around or run the vacuum cleaner. We kept it quiet and calm. She snacked on raw beef and banana pupsicles and received lots of puppy massages and cuddles.

me and my pup



And what do you know? Kaweah was relaxed and happy. She was in good spirits and pretty mobile (as mobile goes for a 15.5 year old lab). Over the next two days her energy and mood were improved. Jeremy and I have been preparing ourselves for the end for so long now that we just don’t assume anything anymore. We take it one day at a time and play it by ear according to Kaweah’s needs. Emotional roller coaster? You bet it is. Kaweah has never been much of a planner, so it seems that this is all par for the course. Each day as it comes. Every day is a gift.

maybe the camera has a treat



Of course, I *am* a planner. I’ve been waiting for July to get here since last August. “Why is that?” you may ask. Because the season is fast upon us…

a porcini with a 77mm lens cap for scale



Yes, porcini season is right around the corner, but it’s not the porcini in the picture that I’m super psyched over. See all those green plants that the mushroom is nestled in? Those are huckleberry plants, and huckleberries are what I’m ALL about.

flowering huckleberries



Huckleberries are the number one single most awesomest bestest berries in this whole wide world. I am obsessed with huckleberries and they are coming into season in my local mountains this month. It takes a lot of time and patience to hand-pick hucks in the wild because the plants are low to the ground and the berries are underneath the leaves. That means your quads, buttocks, and calves will get a GREAT workout. I can pick about 1 cup of hucks in one hour and it takes about 2.5-3 cups of berries to make a pound.

two pounds of hucks from last summer (frozen)

thawing out the berries



**Jump for more butter**

refresh me

Monday, June 30th, 2014

Recipe: mint lime syrup

Most of you know what a heat wimp I am. As we move firmly into summer and our runs increase in distance and duration, I’ve taken to 4 am wake ups to avoid running in direct sunlight as much as possible. In the mountains, we start our runs in 30-40°F temperatures, which tragically climb into the 60s and 70s as the sun rises in the sky. 80s on the really hot days. I know many people think 60s and 70s are positively balmy, but that sun is intensely strong at 10,000 feet when you are sucking air like a Hoover running up a steep trail. But yeah, I am a heat wimp.

Besides sticking my head in the freezer (there is no air conditioning in the mountains), I keep cool by lurking about in the shade (dry heat) and keeping hydrated. I drink water and unsweetened iced tea almost exclusively, but when we entertain, I like to splurge on some kind of fruity infusion beverage. Entertaining season is upon us! While I was flipping through Marisa’s new book Preserving by the Pint, her mint lime syrup caught my eye.


preserving by the pint, marisa’s second book

so many lovely recipes and photographs



Actually, there are a ton of recipes in her book that piqued my interest. It’s full of quick recipes for small batches of pickles, jams, salsas, butters, sauces, etc. So instead of processing 20 pounds of peaches in one never-ending canning session, you have a lovely guide for making a single jar of pickles or two half-pints of strawberry jam in under an hour. Nice.

mint, limes, sugar, water

pluck the mint leaves, juice the limes

pouring water into the sugar to make a simple syrup



**Jump for more butter**