Hibiscus Enchiladas- Two Ways

Hibiscus enchiladas are the bomb. Once you try these vegetarian delights, you will want to serve them to everyone! Who knew those lovely flowers could do so much?

This dish was begat by the gift of some dried hibiscus flowers. Other than tea, what does one do with these things? My savvy daughter sent me a link to loveandoliveoil.com where there are several recipes using hibiscus for more than just tea! I was inspired by the enchiladas recipe and have since added hibiscus enchiladas to my repertoire of favorites. And by “repertoire of favorites” I mean I no longer follow an exact recipe and these enchies become tailored to whatever my mood at the time desires. Sometimes I am “eating clean” and light and fresh fare that is colorful, uber-healthy, and gourmet. Would that I lived every day this way, filled with verve and vibrancy but the truth is that sometimes I have a bad day or rough week and I want comfort food. For me, comfort food is kind of heavy, it tends to be heavily sauced, have more than one kind of cheese in it, and it may tend toward mono-chromatic.

So here are two versions of the same Hibiscus Enchiladas, one for when you are on top of the world and the other for when the world has been riding your ass all week.

For both recipes you will need:

  • 6-8 corn tortillas
  • 1 Cup organic hibiscus flowers
  • 1 can chipotle pepper in adobo sauce
  • 15 oz can chopped tomatoes or 3 fresh tomatoes, chopped
  • Chopped onions and garlic, I do about ¾ cup of chopped onion and 3-4 cloves of garlic, then divide it between the sauce and the enchiladas
  • Julienned veggies of your choice to make about 1 to 1.5 cups(carrots, zucchini, potato, jicama, spinach, kale, swiss chard, yellow squash, and/or anything in the fridge that needs to be eaten). I tend to err on the side of too much veggie because the left overs can be saved for a quick addition to scrambled eggs or soup or as a sandwich filling so feel free to saute up extra to cook once-eat twice.
  • Cheese(s) of your choice (cotija, feta, cheddar, Monterey jack, cottage cheese are some suggestions)

*You may wish to add jalapenos into the veggie mix if you like a bit of heat.

Depending on the tortilla size and the amount of veggies you stuff into each, this makes about 6 healthy enchiladas which is 2 servings in my opinion but could serve 3 if you had lots of sides or were a light eater. If you are making the comfort enchilada version, it serves 4-6 people

Soak 1 cup dried hibiscus flowers in 2 cups hot water (as if making tea) for 30 minutes or longer. Drain and reserve the liquid for tea or for margaritas (see suggestion below for hibiscus cocktail recipes).

Thoroughly rinse the rehydrated flowers to remove any grit and set aside.

Meanwhile for the enchilada sauce (actually, start this first so it can develop the flavor), over medium heat saute onions and garlic and the chopped tomatoes, cut up 1 or 2 of the chipotle peppers and 2 -4 teaspoons of the adobo sauce and add to the mix with  1 tablespoon of chili powder (or not if you want a fresher, lighter flavor), some cumin, oregano, salt and pepper all to taste and cook about 15 minutes. Blend smooth in a blender. In a clean pot place some oil and heat, then add the sauce like you were going to saute it. Let cook about 15 minutes. It may seem like a hassle to re-cook the sauce but it really makes a difference in the flavor. Take it off the heat and keep it warm while preparing the remaining recipe.

To prepare the enchiladas:

For healthy enchiladas, saute onions until translucent. Next add garlic and stir around a moment until fragrant, then add the julienned veggies and hibiscus flowers and saute. Add 1 teaspoon cumin, ¾ teaspoon coriander, ½ teaspoon oregano, and salt/pepper to taste. I sometimes add some jalapeno slices to this mix as well. Saute until veggies are soft but still colorful and then keep warm until ready to make enchiladas

Place small amount of oil in skillet and heat corn tortillas on medium heat for 30 seconds to soften, placing on paper towel-lined plate. This heating also intensifies the flavor of the tortillas.

Assemble by placing a scant ¼ cup of the veggie mix onto a tortilla and roll up and place on serving plate. Top with enchilada sauce, avocado slices, sour cream or plain yogurt, and a sprinkle of the cheese of your choice.

Healthy Hibiscus Enchiladas with avocado and plain yogurt served with orange and candied jalapeno slices. Hibiscus margarita to round out the meal. Leave out the yogurt for a vegan version.

For comfort enchiladas, follow the vegetable saute and tortilla prep as for healthy enchiladas. Assemble in an oiled 8×10 (or so) baking dish that has a smear of enchilada sauce on the bottom of it by placing 2 tablespoons of veggie mix and 1 tablespoon of cheese (I like cottage cheese and Monterey jack mixed together). Roll up and place rolled-side down in baking dish, pour the enchilada sauce over and cover with cheese. Bake at 375F for 30 minutes or until sauce is bubbling and cheese is melted. Remove from oven and let cool about 10 minutes before serving. You can use this time to mix up a cocktail with that hibiscus tea.

Hibiscus enchiladas comfort style. I was half-way through dinner when I realized I had forgotten to take a picture of the plated dinner. I really needed that “hug from the inside” this day!

For a yummy beverage, you can fix these cocktails or leave the alcohol out for a nice mocktail.

Hibiscus Margarita- place 1/3 cup of the reserved hibiscus tea into a glass, add 1T simple syrup, about ½ a lime of fresh juice, and a shot of tequila (gold or anejo is my preference). Adjust to taste, then add ice cubes. I like to float or place on rim some candied jalapenos. I tried adding one of the hibiscus flowers to the drink but it really just looked like a dead baby squid rather than a glorious flower.

Hibiscus and Huckleberry-Infused Vodka sparkler- pour about 1/2 cup of hibiscus tea into a glass, add 1-2 teaspoons of sugar and stir to dissolve, then add a shot of huckleberry-infused vodka, a few ice cubes, and fill glass with sparkling water. I love my SodaStream to have sparkling water whenever I want without creating more plastic bottles to deal with.

Wondering what to serve alongside the enchiladas? For the healthy enchilada sides, I’ve made salads. My favorite salad, of which there is no picture I am sad to say, had a base of romaine and tomato, then alternating slices of grapefruit and avocado and in the center were some cooked carrots with a raspberry-chipotle glaze. Dressing was grapefruit juice, olive oil and seasonings. To make the carrots, cook carrot coins in small amount of water until done. Add some real raspberry jam and some of the chipotle pepper in the pot and stir over heat until it reduces into a glaze. For the comfort enchilada sides I go simple and do a cucumber and tomato salad (and maybe a second cocktail). A little of Aura Cacia’s Chill Pill essential oil on the wrist also helps soothe the soul.

Give these a try and let me know what you think! Did you do the healthy version or the comfort version? If you buy the hibiscus flowers from the above Amazon link (or any other items that are linked in this or my other posts) it will not cost you anything extra and I will make a small commission that will let me make up other recipes to use up that bag of hibiscus! That is how the Amazon affiliate thingy works, I get a few cents for pointing you in their direction.

40 Days Week One Menu

Sunset on the Oregon desert is so inspiring

40 Days Menu

The next 40 days are not about restriction. Rather, it is about actually freeing the spirit that is inside. We all have developed coping mechanisms, some conscious and some unconscious, that may no longer serve us. I believe we each have the innate guidance of God within us. We know what is right but sometimes that little voice can get lost in the tumult of our daily life.

What am I going to eat?

What am I going to eat? This is pretty much the first thought that crosses my mind on any adventure. Food is a big THING for many of us. We eat things we know do not serve our bodies well and yet we still do it. Why? Why is there the struggle of what we should do against what we want? Regardless of body shape, I am confident that every person alive has felt this struggle, whether it is with food or exercise.

Sometimes I do things even when I know they are not a good idea.

When starting on any journey one must have a destination in mind. In the case of this personal journey it can be called setting an intention. Answer these questions:

  • Why am I setting this goal?
  • What do I commit to doing to achieve the goal?
  • How do I believe achievement of this goal will affect my life?

 My intention (why I am setting this goal) for this 40 Days to Personal Revolution is to live in the flow of life. To me this means that I will move with the cycles that occur in every day, that I will accept without reservation these cycles and  listen (how I believe achieving the goal will affect me). I know that refusal to accept what is causes suffering, sadness, disconnection, and emptiness. I know that trying to “fix” these feelings from the outside is at best only temporary. Actually, there is nothing that needs to be fixed. I am perfect right now. Can you say that to yourself during your meditations this week (what I am committing to doing to achieve this goal)? If something comes up for you, and sheesh, it is coming up for me even as I write this, can you just let it come up? Can you breathe in and imagine a large and welcoming space for that feeling? Maybe you name the feeling, maybe you don’t. But do not explain it, do not justify it, just accept it with an open and loving heart. If feelings come up in your body, like for me it is a tightness in my throat and chest, hold those body feelings in the same open space of absolute acceptance. At the end of this week, let’s see how this experience of complete acceptance has worked.

Ah, so it would seem with the title of this post that I promised a menu. When I started this writing my intention was to research all the recipes and menus I have saved over the years to find those that would fit into my preconceived idea of what I should eat during this conscious personal journey. Now I see that the menu is not one of edible food, at least not at this time. The menu is one of spiritual food. The theme for the first week is of Presence. Coming into your body. It is about waking up.

Now THIS is a good thing! Fresh from the garden.

Still, I am Susan, a person who likes to plan and research and organize because it makes me feel more comfortable. I like knowing that I have healthy food choices and sometimes I like not having to decide what is for dinner because the menu has already been set for the week. Sometimes trying to decide at 5:00 what to have for dinner results in just wanting a glass of wine and some nachos or a bowl of cereal. I do not think that is bad but I do not want to live life in default mode. So, what are some of the things I will eat this coming week? For dinners I think Hibiscus Enchiladas will be nice, and how about Frito Pie and something tofu based, like a marinated tofu steak. Lunches may be leftovers from dinner with a fruit and small salad. Breakfasts will be yogurt, pea protein smoothies, and egg tacos. There, I have fulfilled that mission. I will share the recipes as they occur. I hope you will share with me your food choices! And share also your spiritual menu, if you will.

Yes, guacamole is healthy for body and soul!

Religious discussion: At times I will quote the Christian Bible but the truths written in the Bible are also true in every other religion and I may also quote the Buddha. Truth does not change. I know the Christian Bible best, having studied it, but I cannot call myself a Christian within the tenets of current Christian religion beliefs because I do not subscribe to them. I do not believe you have to be a Christian to know God and to know truth. I identify as spiritual because of this. If you like the religious quotes, cool, if you do not, just skim over that part.

Are You Ready for a Personal Revolution?

40 Days to Personal Revolution

yoga, down dog, 40 Days to Personal Revolution
Getting down, dog.

Who wants to kick start healthy living and habits? Who knows that the holiday season is just around the corner and our healthy self-care habits, those few of us who do it regularly enough to call it a habit, who knows those habits will get tossed to the side like a used green tea bag? And who would like to get into a healthier mental and emotional place before the stress of the holidays?

Me too!!!

Starting this Sunday, October 13, 2019, I am going to follow the program in Baron Baptiste’s book, 40 Days to Personal Revolution. I will put notes on social media and on my blog about what I am doing and how it is working out, the things that are easy, the things that are hard. And YOU can do it with me! Some of you may belong to a yoga studio that does these programs and lucky you! For those of us who do not have a studio or community to share this process, let us make an online community. I have done the 40 days program twice with a studio in Houston, Texas and I have done it twice on my own. I can tell you unequivocally that on my own was quite wishy-washy and with a community it was radical and awesome. It turns out that introverts still need to be around people for some things and even highly sensitive people need community, they just need to be more thoughtful of the community in which they participate.

So why am I putting this online in the first place? I will be honest, I am having a hard time finding my community out here. I am sure they exist and I will dig them up somehow, I have not given up. In the meantime, I will make use of my resources and social media is one of them. There are great things that can be achieved through the connection of Facebook and Instagram and a sense of community through digital expression is one of them. I believe we all need physical connections but for those times that actual presence is not possible, digital presence is doable. I was reminded of this truth this morning when my daughter called me. I have been feeling down the last few days due to loneliness and feeling like I may never have any true and soulful friendships here and had expressed this feeling to her yesterday. Her call today to talk about it and say, “I have been thinking about this and it hurts me that you are hurting,” or something to that effect made me cry a few tears of relief at being heard and being loved. It made me realize that even though she is not here in physical presence that she was able to project that love and care through our use of technology.

Are you in exactly the place you want to be? Do you show love and care for your body the way you want to? Do you show love and care for your own unique humanness and for the people around you in the manner you want to? Do you have the closeness to God, the Universe, Presence or whatever you call it, do you have the closeness that you desire? If you can answer yes to all these then YOU should write a book! If you, like me, are sometimes doing pretty good on these three aspects and sometimes life happens and they fall apart, then join me in this 40 Days and let’s build ourselves and each other back up!

The things you may want to have to get started:

The book, 40 Days to Personal Revolution by Baron Baptiste. You can buy it here on Amazon or at most yoga studios and bookstores

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A yoga mat. You can make do with a rug but there is something holy and sacred about rolling out your mat and stepping on it. There are lots of mats from the basic to the superb. I started out with a cheap mat from a discount store until I was gifted an awesome Manduka mat. You do what works for you

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A journal. You will have to write every day. Yes, it may seem like a commitment but that is why we are doing this, to commit to creating the best for our one unique life. Just do it. You can use a basic composition notebook or a lovely journal and pen. Whatever resonates for you. I am getting this one because I love how the nautical journey look resonates with this personal journey

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This might seem strange but you will want a quality chef’s knife and paring knife. Why this? Because you are going to be eating a lot more fruits and veggies these next few weeks and cutting them up should not be a chore, it should be easy. This Global knife set is fantastic. Stays sharp, even when I would put it in the dishwasher. (gasp!)  Maybe get a new cutting board, too. Food is holy, make that your mantra this next few weeks.

I’ll mention some other things in the upcoming posts that I have used in the past that helped me. If you have any suggestions, let me know! I am looking forward to sharing this revolutionary journey with you! See you on the mat and in the kitchen.

Susan

Disclaimer: as an Amazon Affiliate, if you click the links in my post and purchase something, I will make a small commission and it will not cost you anything. Your support of this venture is much appreciated!

Chanterelles!

or

How To Identify and Cook Chanterelle Mushrooms And Be Confident You Won’t Poison Yourself

Chanterelles have false gills
Golden chanterelles and golden sunlight on the forest

Ah, life in the Pacific Northwest. I love it out here. The summer weather is so mild with only a few days that get into the outliers of high temperatures. Unlike my former home on the Gulf Coast, there are definite seasons and finally I can not only enjoy but come to love summer. Gentle breezes let you wear a light T-shirt and shorts and open-toed shoes. You can decide to go for a walk and just heading out the door without having to pile on layers of coats and socks and shoes with laces. A PNW Summer gets me and forgives my tendency to wear inappropriate shoes and forget my hat.

I headed to our little peninsula paradise in mid-September. As I made my way around the tree-lined lake and saw the leaves starting to turn yellow and red, my heart sank a little. I am not yet ready for fall and I dread the onslaught of winter. My blood isn’t thick enough yet or whatever it is that lets some people survive icy mornings without batting an eye. As I pulled into our forested driveway my heart was heavy knowing the sun would soon not be seen over the tree line and the birds would not be singing and I would be once again ensconced in many, many layers of binding clothes.

But wait, what golden light on yonder forest floors breaks?

Oh. My.

Chanterelle mushroom grows on forest floor under hardwood trees.
Chanterelle growing on forest floor

It is the beautiful harbinger of fall around here. The chanterelle. And they are just beginning to poke their lovely heads up.

Now where I come from there are not many mushrooms. Of course, in a metropolis you are not going to find much in the way of foraging at all. All that lawn mowing and green grass chemicals are not good for wild food. When the don introduced me to morel hunting in early spring, I was amazed! All this earthy umami deliciousness was available right outside the door of our little house in the woods? All one had to do was take a lovely stroll in the woods and look around. Morels are a bit harder to see for the inexperienced eye but getting that experience is fun and if you do not find any morels, you have still had a lovely walk.

But chanterelles, now they are a different story altogether. Chantys do not try to hide or blend in to the forest floor as do morels. They pop out from the forest floor like glow sticks at a rave, making it so easy to spot them you just know they want you to take them home. I suspect if they could they would prance around your feet like a puppy and nip at your pant legs. And they make it so easy to identify them that even a beginner like me can differentiate them from the fakes.

In case you are ever taking a walk in the woods and see some orange-ish mushrooms, here is how to tell if it is a chanterelle or if it will make your butt bleed. (To be fair, it will be the chafing from toilet paper abrasion due to frequent toilet visits that will cause bleeding, not the fake chanterelles, but that doesn’t sound as dramatic)

First off, chantys are a medium to dark golden color. But so are the two look-alikes that you should not eat so do not go on just color. Chanterelle mushrooms have what is known as false gills. Gills are those things on the underside of the cap easily seen on mushrooms you get from the store, they look like the fins on your air conditioner compressor. But chantys do not have regular gills, they have this wavy stuff that goes partway down the stem. This is the best way to tell a chanty from the non-chanty.

False gills on chanterelle mushroom
Chanterelles come in different sizes but all have false gills.

Additionally, chantys grow singly, not a big mess of ‘shrooms like some fungus beehive. They also grow on the forest floor, not on trees or rotting logs, because they have a relationship with the trees. This relationship is called mycorhizal and it means the fungus and the tree roots hook up.

Now, I know what you are thinking. How to tell the real chanterelles from those butt bleeders? Good question! Those butt bleeders are commonly called Jack-O-Lanterns or Omphalotus olivascens, I call them omphas for short. First off, they won’t kill you, just give you terrible diarrhea for a couple of days. That is much better than some amanitas making you get a liver transplant, if you live at all. So how to tell the ompha from the chanty? Simple! Ompha has gills. Check it out.

Chanterelle on left, Ompha on right. Wavy false gills go partly down stem versus true gills that stop at stem.

Here is a chanty and an ompha together. These two were found only a couple of feet apart under a giant spruce. Around here the chantys prefer Douglas Fir but there is always the exception. Except the gills part, chantys never have true gills.

Also, ompha is a scrub, in the parlance of our times, meaning it just sits there sucking the life out of trees, dead or alive, and does not have a plan to become a contributing member of society. They just hang out on the passenger side of life. So the ompha will be found growing on dead trees or fallen logs. Omphas may also grow in clumps, where more than one mushroom is growing from the same base. Chantys do not do that. They stand on their own two feet, so to speak.

What do you do if you do not have access to chanterelles in your neck of the woods? You can purchase dried mushrooms here. You must be sure to use boiling water to rehydrate or risk a rubbery mess. Since most of the chanterelles charm is the color and texture it adds to a dish and not the flavor, make sure to follow directions in rehydrating. If you have access to fresh mushrooms and want to hoard them for later, they do freeze well if you saute them before freezing. I wonder if you could find fresh chanterelles in a fancy food store like Whole Foods? Let me know if you see them in your grocery store!

So, what to do with these mushrooms if you are not going to hoard them for the zombie apocalypse? So many things! You can try the classic saute in butter and garlic and serve with crackers and cheese. Then you will realize I am right and that chantys do not have such suberb flavor. (Exception alert, I am told that black chanterelles are flavorful but I cannot verify at this time) I think the thing to do is to add them to creamy dishes, a baked mac-n-cheese, a risotto, a stir-fry, in a cream sauce over tofu (or a meat, I guess, if you are into that), added to an omelette or French-style creamed eggs, chopped and sauteed then stirred into a goat cheese for a kick-ass toast spread or dip. I went and made up a special chanty dish and I am sharing the recipe with you just below.

Shoot, now I am hungry, even though I am not hungry. Writing about food always does that to me.

So, take a walk in the woods this fall and see what you find. Or take a vacation to some northern woods if you are on the Gulf Coast, you deserve a break from the heat and the threat of tropical storms and hurricanes. Go find some little gold buttons of love on the forest floor to remind you that while the sun is going away for now, it will be back in due time.

Here is that simple recipe for the foraged harvest, Chanterelle and Tomato Sauce. The sauce is fast to cook so start the pasta water first, then get going on this quick and easy sauce. It is great on pasta and also on toast! Our tomato harvest has been extraordinary this year so finding ways to showcase both foraged and farmed foods has been a wonderful task! I prefer cooking tomato dishes in cast iron to get a little boost of iron in my diet. Don’t believe the myth about acidic foods and cast iron, a seasoned cast iron skillet can handle anything, even an omelette. If you only have one skillet in your kitchen, make it this one. You will love it. And if you do not have a wooden spatula as shown below, check this one out. I use it for everything and it is good on any type of pan finish.

Chanterelle and Tomato on Pasta
Served over pasta with a sprinkle of flaked sea salt,this sauce is bright and fresh, just like early autumn!

Chanterelle with Tomato Sauce

  • 1 Cup sliced chanterelle mushrooms
  • 2-4 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 Beefsteak tomato chopped with juice (about 1 cup chopped tomato)
  • 3 cloves garlic (if you are not a garlic lover, you can use less but I recommend trying it this way at least once)
  • juice from half a lemon
  • flaked finishing salt
  • grated Parmesan or Romano (optional)

In a 12 inch cast iron skillet, saute the chanterelles in 3 Tablespoons of butter. If they seem to stick before cooking down add more butter as needed. About 4 or 5 minutes into the saute, press on a couple of mushrooms with a wooden spatula, if it squishes down a bit and releases some watery juice it is cooked. You don’t have to worry about over-cooking mushrooms but do not burn your butter! Once the mushrooms are nice and soft, add the chopped tomato, juice and all. Let the tomato and mushroom cook down, about 3-4 minutes. Now add the garlic and cook until garlic is fragrant, only a minute or two, and there is still tomato juice and butter sauce standing in the pan. Stir the lemon juice into the mixture and remove from heat and add a sprinkle of flaked salt. Serve over pasta and top with some grated Parm or Romano, although this is optional and I like the sauce with and without the cheese. Leftover sauce is fabulous on toast or in a sandwich with a slice of gruyere.

Fresh chanterelles sauteeing
Fresh chanterelles starting to saute in butter. I am cooking a few extra to pop in the freezer.
Chanterelles finished sauteeing
Boy those chanterelles cook down a lot! Don’t worry, you cannot overcook mushrooms but you can burn butter so as soon as you reach this stage, add tomato
Adding tomato to mushroom saute
Adding the chopped tomato with juice to the mushrooms
Add garlic at end of cooking
When the tomato has cooked a bit and starts to soften like this, add the garlic. Notice there is still some butter glazing the pan, you can add another tablespoon if your butter has been soaked up by the mushrooms. Stir in lemon juice and you are done!

Let me know if you try this recipe and how it worked out for you! If you do not have a cast iron skillet then use whatever 10-12 inch skillet you have and then get on Amazon and order a cast iron skillet! You will be amazed at how easy cooking can be.

Here are the items I recommended in the recipe above, consolidated just for you. If you do buy one of these items on Amazon through my provided link, it will not cost you anything extra and Amazon will pay me a small commission on the sale so I can bring you more recipes that are simple and delicious.

Having a Beginner’s Mindset

Howdy, Y’all! How was your summer? For some of you readers it may still feel like summer, regardless of what the calendar says. Summer is one of the busiest times in the mountains of the Pacific and Inland Northwest. Gorgeous weather calls to come tiptoe on the mountain ridges and float along the river, the garden needs tending, the mules get fat and sassy on the green pasture grass, friends and family come to visit. Yes, summer is a whirlwind of activity up here!

There are a few reasons for why it has been so long since I shared any of the goings-ons with you. Besides all the activity that is summer, I want to remodel this blog site and I got so caught up in trying to figure out how the finished product would look that I did not actually start the project. I have heard it called many things but analysis paralysis is one I will use. You know how it is, you want to do something but do not have any idea how to do it or maybe even how you want it to look when you are finished. That is why we hire professionals, because they can have so many ideas and experience and move wishful thinking into action. Alas, hiring a professional web designer is not an expense I can incur and so it went, round and round.

Delightfully, I spent time with my daughter recently who did a reading for me with these cool Animal Spirit cards.

These are the spirit cards that Erika brought. Such lovely packaging!

A reading consists of shuffling the deck, spreading it out face down, and choosing cards. We like to wave our hand over the cards until it feels like one of the cards “calls” to select it. Then you look up the card in the accompanying book that describes what the card can mean in life and how that value would appear if you are in balance or out of balance. I find it a fun way to share time together and interact sans screen.

Actually we did two readings for me, each about a week apart. Both said the same thing essentially: creativity is about starting, just do the work, start where you are, it is not the finished product that requires focus but rather it is the process of working that is important.

Below is a shot of the cards from my second reading. These cards are not about telling the future. I think what they do is help you get over yourself and the blockades you put up. They can be a tool to help you open to possibilities that your heart is longing for. It was interesting, however, in that when we started this second reading and I shuffled the deck, the cards drawn were similar to the reading that had been done immediately prior, including this spider card (the center card). I decided to reshuffle the deck and try again.  First card drawn was the spider card, something that surprised Erika and me and caused Erika to comment that I obviously was not getting out of that message! The spider’s message is to focus on the expression of creativity, not on the finished product. It is hard not to also get the message that we each weave our own web of life. Am I weaving the web I desire?

The three cards from my second reading.

We were able to include a dear family member in the fun via video chat. Don’t you love technology?!?!

Video chat card reading, you can participate in the fun even if you are not in the room!

If you want to take a look at the cards or buy some, here is a link you can use. If you follow it and make a purchase, I will get a small commission and it won’t cost you any extra. The Animal Spirit cards are quite beautifully drawn and the book that describes each card is well written.

Such lovely drawings of real and imagined animals

Isn’t that interesting? I have had on my mind how to revamp this blog but have been stuck because I do not know how or what I want. I feel the interface is clunky. I have tried to envision how to make it more polished and interesting and I cannot figure that out; perhaps because I am not a web designer. Instead I am just going to start messing around and try different things. It will be an experiment in process-driven work rather than results-driven, just like the cards suggest. Sometimes it may be icky, maybe even break down, and sometimes it might get a little better. I have to accept being a beginner and not being great.

Consider it experimental art, perhaps. Have you ever been to an experimental art show? They are not always enjoyable. One show I went to consisted of a guy walking up and down the alley of a warehouse with a cow head. Not a skull, the full head with skin and eyes and gore at the neck. As he paced the alleyway he was muttering and then hollering words that were incomprehensible to me, perhaps because I was in my head trying to figure out where a person gets hold of a freshly decapitated bovine noggin in the middle of Houston. And also I was staying back to avoid the blood and gore that would fling out from the cow neck when the artist (and the bitchy part of me writes that as “artist” but the professional in me would never be so crass), back to what I was saying, when the artist would fling the cow head around to make some point. Art is cool, pleading with the dry cleaner to get the cow blood stains out of your blouse is not cool. And yet, of the many art shows attended, this icky one stands out most strongly and is the one I chose to relate to you. I have no idea what happened to that guy or those other people in the audience over these past many years but I know that I was inspired. If that guy can get up there and be insane and repulsive, then maybe that gives me freedom to do the same in my own way. No dry cleaner needed.

It can be hard to be a beginner. To not know exactly what you are doing, or how to do it. It can be exhausting, too, because everything, every detail and action is consciously considered. Once you get good at something it just flows. It becomes easy and it feels good to do well without working so hard. I think as we get older we become intimidated by the idea of starting over. The idea of not being good at something, of not knowing what to do and how to proceed several steps up the road, it can be overwhelming. Well, it is overwhelming when one tries to foretell the future and see the end before even beginning. No wonder I have been dragging my tail, that is a lot of weight to bear!
I have also been trying to figure out what this blog is about. In trying to get the professional and polished vision I thought maybe I should narrow the focus to specific content. After tossing around lots of ideas: travel, outdoors, food, healthy living, it was apparent that no single idea was resonating. I have decided that, at this time at least, the blog will just be about whatever is on my mind and agenda. (That is agenda as in calendar and what I am doing that week, not agenda as in take over the world)

I hope your summer was wonderful. I cannot wait to share all the late-summer and fall stuff with you! Hope you are hungry, the next post is about food! That is something I do know well!

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Hells Canyon 2.0

Snake River, appropriately named

Ahh, once again I sallied forth to the hells of the nearby appropriately named canyon to spend a couple of weeks gorging on asparagus and test my new system of poison ivy avoidance.

The start of the trip was less than auspicious due to heavy rain causing a road to partially slide off the mountain thus, and rightly so, necessitating the closure of the only road to the trailhead from which we start our journey. Being a person who firmly believes if there is one way to do something, there are a thousand ways to do it, I began to consider options to the “wait and see” attitude of the people in charge of fixing the road. Wait and see as in, wait and see if the road slides further (it did, about 6 inches when I went to see for myself), wait and see if the rain will start up again or if conditions will dry enough to let heavy equipment up there. Regardless of what might come, the authorities were saying it could be a week or more before the road was actually open. After some discussion, the don mentioned an alternate route to get to the Snake River, one much less popular because, instead of starting at river level like the preferred trailhead does, this starts at mountaintop level, thus necessitating a 4,000 foot drop to the river which is done practically in one straight line following a creek. Have you ever taken 2,000 steps straight down? Boy, there were some shin muscles tweaking out at the end of that, I’ll tell you!

Ready for Antler hunting. Finn sports her GPS collar with the antenna

Leah also got to do what she was built to do, haul mules up a winding one-lane mountain road. Doesn’t she look grand?

Leah doing her job as a real ranch truck.

Here is an example of how harsh the terrain is here in Hells Canyon. This knife edged ridge looks crazy-sharp! And the weather was slightly ominous.

Heading out from Cow Creek. That is Oregon across the Snake River with all the snow on that seemingly flat horizon.

Okay, let’s see if Monty can remember that mules are not his friends and one cannot walk between the pack line.

Monty and the pack line

Here is one of maybe two switchbacks during the entire descent to the Snake River. It was a bit on the steep side, as per usual around here.

Never thought I’d wish for more switchbacks

And all that rain made the difference between creek and trail somewhat undetectable.

Trail IS creek

Finally we made it to Kirkwood Ranch on the Snake River. Lots of green grass for the mules to enjoy while we took a 3 minute break to stretch those shins. Only 11 more miles to go so better not dilly-dally. I’ll write a later post on the old homesteads I found in this area.

Lovely Kirkwood Ranch on the Snake River

We took turns walking and riding Stella, the don and I did. With Monty’s “issues” around me being on top of a mule, I rode only on the wide and flat spots where Monty could have space to make different choices if he found himself drawn to the mule’s legs. With a bit of babysitting, Monty only once cut in front of a mule during the whole trip and thankfully the mules were paused. Monty is definitely getting better but since he is who he is I don’t think I can ever relax when he is around mules. He just doesn’t believe they can hurt him. It’s so funny to watch how different the other two dogs are from him around the mules and also just being on the trail. The other two are hunting dogs, they roam hundreds of yards away up and down the hillsides and stay far away from mule feet. Monty does not get far from “his” pack, always running between people if we are not all together to check up on everyone. He also checks up on the mules though they don’t seem to appreciate his concern for their welfare.

Stella and the don

Here is my view from atop Stella with Monty safely following the don. No, the picture isn’t crooked, it just there are few flat spots around here.

My view from Stella

Hell’s Canyon is also the only place I’ve ever been where one has to be wary of poison ivy and rattlesnakes in the same place. I don’t mean along the same trail, I mean in the exact same place. Here’s a rattler. He’s little and not inclined to move fast but still I chose not to goof around with camera angles to try and get him and the poison ivy in the same shot this day. But see here, this photo is from a couple weeks later nearby and you can totally see the ivy. I swear, if it isn’t one thing it’s another… and I’m thinking I need to look into that rattlesnake vaccine they have for dogs.

Though the day started out cool with storms threatening, it cleared and became quiet warm as we headed up from the river to our base camp. By the time camp was reached, the mules had walked maybe 18 miles and the dogs had probably done twice that. Everyone was ready for a rest.

Sweaty ass

Boy, it’s amazing how quickly those dogs recharge! Especially Finn, who is not even 2 years old yet. You might remember her from last year, the puppy who runs through poison ivy all day and then wants to climb into your sleeping bag at night. Sorry, Finn, no snuggles from me this year. Finn had a GPS tracking collar to wear this year as she can sometimes roam a bit too far afield. She was actually tracked running 32 miles per hour on this trip! Now you see me, now you don’t.

One warm day the mules and I stayed in camp. Just watching these guys napping in the shade can make you feel sleepy. That is, until they start yawning. How can you not laugh at those faces!

This is me in every meeting ever held. “Try to keep the eyes open, c’mon… okay, close them but have a thoughtful look on your face so you appear to be really focused on what the speaker is droning on about… don’t yawn, don’t yawn, don’t yawnnnnnnnnnnnnn. Rats.”

Being so far removed from light pollution, we can see zillions of stars in our little slice of sky. One very early morning I decided to capture the gorgeousness of the darkness. With the full moon lighting the canyon walls, I held my breath and tried to channel complete stillness to take this photo of what I think is Sagittarius over the ridgeline. The nights are so mesmerizing one hardly notices the chill.

Stars over the canyon

And finally, the whole reason for this trip, imo…

Gatherer!

Asparagus! Freshly gathered. It would appear the animals here do not eat asparagus. See in this photo below how the green stalk is surrounded by dead dry stalks that, if not flopped over would be 4-5 feet tall. Those are last year’s asparagus. No one ate them. It was pretty early so the majority of asparagus hasn’t yet popped up enough to pick but I still got plenty to keep us in green veggies for the trip.

Growing wild

While basking in the glory of fresh tasty vegetables for dinner, I looked up and noticed a plane drawing lines across the sky.

Have you ever noticed that the contrails break up and begin to look like condensed chromosomes during metaphase? No? What, that’s just me that sees this? Must be all that biochem. Well, now you’ll start seeing it too, next time you see a contrail.

Metaphase

The advantage of traveling with the mules is that we can have good food, not just that dried stuff. I am terribly spoiled by the don, I will admit. He makes a great cup of coffee and then follows that up with a breakfast that would rival any fancy brunch restaurant.

In addition to asparagus,  the “purpose” of this trip is to find antlers. I’m not very good at that yet. In part because I’m still so overwhelmed by the newness of everything around me and I’m distracted by so much awesomeness. It’s also because I still have to look where I am walking so I take 10 steps looking at the ground, then stop and look around for antlers but then I see a waterfall, a burned log, a beautiful flower, my dog being cute or bored. But, strangely enough, I did find an antler all by myself! Sadly, it had sat out in the sun for many years or perhaps it had been engulfed in the fire that went through here a few years ago but either way it was beginning to “rot” and become chalky. I enjoyed the thrill of discovery and left it where it lay.

However, the don had spied an antler near camp and we took a morning walk to get it. I went down the hill to retrieve it, Monty got excited and wanted to help. (As an aside, in Houston these would be called mountains so I can honestly say I walked down a mountain to get this antler.)

Sadly the trip came to an end and it was time to pack up and head back to civilization and daily showering. Of course, it wouldn’t be a proper HC trip without a photo of the don shirtless. To be fair, by the end of April it does get very hot in the canyon and no sense getting one’s shirt all sweaty when you can’t easily wash it. I don’t mind at all.

A cowgirl’s dream

And on to Idaho, but first…

Back in that Idaho paradise
Just as spring began to show up on the Olympic peninsula, I left for the second winter of Idaho, aka April. The drive east across Washington was at a meandering speed, taking time to see all the historical roadside stops and scenic overviews. Why do we make false deadlines? I know I’m not the only person to rush past all the wonder trying to get to some place I’ve decided was going to be great. I slowed down at one spot and did some post holing to enjoy truly gorgeous views and saw several other vehicles pause, take a peek and then go one. Much of the coolness in the world can’t be experienced from the car, I’m here to tell you.Look at this waterfall with all the ice alongside!

And Mt Rainier- who do you think wears the regal white coat better?

.

Who wore it better?

I looked into lodging but ended up choosing a campsite in the forest. I had a truckbed full of stuff and I know one can’t leave all that out in a city and the weather was SO lovely and millions of stars. Monty loves a campfire story, as long as it isn’t a scary one

Here are a few photos from the drive to Idaho. I’m heading back into Hell’s Canyon now to find that wild asparagus from last year!

Apparently closed for the season
My best fella

Spring makes a booty call

For a few glorious days I got to see what warmth and natural Vitamin D was like. It was as if the Olympic Peninsula weather had a nasty breakup from Winter and went out on a rebound date with Spring. There were a few days of well-above-freezing nights and afternoons that hit 70 degrees; truly such a lovely dalliance. Alas the OP realized that maybe it wasn’t done with Winter just yet and rainy-day 50 degrees returned to try and make things work.

Dazzled by the sunshine and digging out T-shirts, shorts, and, oh yes, a razor (I had sort of let No-Shave-November drag on a bit), I was again smitten by this northwest paradise. While walking in the sunshine I was remembering a hike I took late last summer. I’ll let this be a bit of photojournalism.

Moon and Monty

How does an Idahoan get anything done? There’s so many delightful distractions from the To Do list during the summer. I am a firm believer that one should strive to have accomplishments each day AND that one should absolutely not miss out on the amazingness of the world while in the pursuit of checking off that To Do list. Maybe you should have two lists, a To Do list where you get to feel productive and a Tah Dah! list where you allow time for the miracle of the world to unfold before you.

Figs in the Northern Rockies?

I had some lucky inside info from the don on a location of a fig tree. Figs in Idaho? This place never ceases to surprise me. I was able to find the tree and so much more! I surmise this spot must have been a former homestead along the river and a tiny orchard was planted. First I saw the fig tree, its leaves are unmistakable, even if you have never seen a fig tree before in your life, even if the only exposure to a fig leaf might be the pictures of Adam and Eve with a leafy bathing suit, you will instinctively know a fig leaf when you see it.

Wasps also like figs.

As you might remember if you read the Ponderosa Pinecone picking blog story, the wasps here have well earned their reputation for being aggressive. I was disbelieving of this reputation at first because the wasps in my yard in Houston were so mellow that we never had a negative encounter, even if I accidentally bumped them or soaked them with the water hose. The wasps out here in the harsh and wild West are just plain mean and will sting you just for breathing. Luckily these wasps on the figs are virtually drunk with the sugar and can hardly stay on the fig they are eating. Yes, those boogers eat figs. They poke holes in the figs and nibble until in a sugar coma. Look here.

Wasp-made holes in this fig

So this is probably a good time to mention that whole “figs aren’t vegetarian because they have dead wasps in them” thing. I am not an expert on fig varieties but as far as I can tell, this is just a common fig that doesn’t need another tree or wasps to pollinate (lucky for it because I don’t know how many miles to the next fig tree it might be!) And these wasps are not the fig wasp I saw pictures of on Google. You can tell by the head shape, these are just normal mean wasps that will sting you as soon as look at you- except for one thing… they are apparently happy drunks

Since they are so satiated with sugar, the wasps hardly even notice me or Monty and so we were able to safely pick all the figs we desired.

The grasshoppers also were hanging around the fig tree. The grasshoppers eat with more gusto than the wasps. I identify more closely with them in the eating style department.

Grasshoppers are big and gusty eaters

Near the fig tree was a tree with a fruit hanging on it that I hadn’t noticed before. I grabbed a fruit off the tree and opened it up because for some reason I had an inkling it might be interesting and low and behold…

What is it?

A walnut!

Although doesn’t the walnut fruit look kind of like a small apple? But it pulls away cleanly and leaves the giant nut we love to eat.

By now my collection bag was getting heavy. I do make a point to only take no more than 10 per cent of the food on a wild tree so the animals who can’t go grocery shopping have plenty to eat. Even so, my bag was getting full with the figs and walnuts when I spied a tree with little orange baubles dangling from it.

Drawn to it, I stepped under the tree and plucked one of the salmon-colored beauties. Admiring it for a moment, I ripped it open like a hawk on a starling and checked the seed. I wasn’t sure at first if it was a plum or perhaps an apricot. Once I saw the seed, I tasted the flesh. It was bright and tart and I still couldn’t be 100% sure if it was plum or apricot. Or could this be a rogue plum-apricot hybrid? It was textured like a plum but tiny and orange and tart like an apricot. But the seed lended itself more towards plum. I might have taken a bit more than the 20% on this tree. Plums are famous for having the whole tree ripen at the same time and you have about 36 hours to harvest them or they fall off and rot. Okay, maybe a bit more than 36 hours but it’s not far off the mark. Ask any plum grower. And these guys WANTED to come with me. They were literally falling off the tree and hitting me on the head and shoulders trying to leap into my bag. And they were so soft and squishy and at the peak of ripeness this very moment. It was heavenly and the wasps hadn’t discovered them or maybe they just didn’t have the sugar the figs did so I was all alone picking, or perhaps the better word would be ducking, the plums.

Now Monty, who was not as impressed as I with the extraordinary bounty of the river valley, was getting rather thirsty. However, being the protective fella he is when we are out walking alone, he wouldn’t leave me to go down the 50 feet to the river and get a drink so we walked down together. It was so lovely on the river with the cool fall wind blowing gently balancing the sunshine. I could have stayed there all day.

The wonders never cease! Right near where I parked my car was a group of pear trees and, as luck would have it, there was plenty of fruit on them that was within my reach.

Coming up from the river I came across a blackberry bush. Around here the berries are ripe about July to August and this is in late September so these were well past ripeness and were actually dried on the bush. I picked a few and they were delicious! Kind of like Nature’s fruit leather and I didn’t mind all the seeds in the least, it was sort of like chia seeds. I was entranced by the yumminess, enough to brave all the tiny thorns that are so stabby so I grabbed about a half cup of the dried berries. I probably ate as much or more while collecting.

And if all that wasn’t enough, then, in a cool spot on the walk back I spied a blackberry bush that had berries just beginning to ripen! Honestly, this is the most amazing spot, just when you think you have a handle on it, another surprise rounds the corner.

Here are a couple of photos of the bounty from this Eden.

Pears, figs, walnuts, and berries!

This one includes some items from the don’s garden. It’s a great time to be a vegetarian!

and plums/pluots, kale, tomato, cucumbers…

Gosh, all that remembering has made me hungry!

My days now will be divided between Idaho and Washington. Both of them are coastlines, if you look far enough back in the geologic record. I am quite lucky to have such extraordinary beauty surrounding me and these current cold and gray days are just a time to remember the bounty of summer.

And perhaps begin to plan this year’s garden!

Forever Twilight

Just a quick note to share a smile. This tiny town on the western side of the Olympic Peninsula has seen some tough days after the logging slowed. A book, The Final Forest, by William Dietrich discusses the challenges that this town and other logging towns face. Forks was lucky enough a decade ago to become the mecca for fans of a particular vampire romance book and was utterly inundated with tourists. While the Twilight tourism has slowed appreciably, there are still many references around town to the story and its characters. This little town has definitely got a sense of humor! This was in the local hardware store. FYI, the bike did get sold.

“There is no evidence available at this time to suggest that this motorcycle was not used in the Twilight movies”

I’m A Witch

Well, some may have suspected this all along; I am a witch. A real live witch.


To be clear, I cannot cast spells or work any magic, excepting the magic of haircolor, but I *can* find water underground. I think.
At theWashington property that is being developed, named Winter’s Hope if you were wondering, there is no city water. This is raw land, y’all, and apparently in the middle of nowhere if one was to believe the attitude of the work force in the nearest city an hour’s drive away. Getting anyone to provide a bid for work to be done is difficult once they find out the address. I suspect I will become a DIY queen before long.

First time with a Sawzall in 2017. Maybe I can be a DIY queen after all


So, as I was saying, a well must be drilled if water is to be had. And potable water is one of the requirements for obtaining a building permit so there you have it, either live in an RV forever or start drilling.
Since the property is alongside a river it seems it should be pretty easy. Then add in the fact that the property is also situated in a rain forest and finding water should practically a no-brainer, right?
Ahhh, you are too smart and paid attention in geology class.
Just because there is a lot of water in the sky and in the riverbed next to you does not mean there are tons of pockets of water below you. Apparently the magic of this area is how sieve-like the dirt is, letting water just flow through it rather than becoming a gooey swamp.
Enter the water witcher.

The water witcher teaching his craft


Yes, in this day and age there are still people who use dowsing rods, special shaped branches cut from new growth on certain types of trees, and walk around waiting for the tree branch to point out where the water is located.
Phooey, right? I know, I thought the same thing. SCIENCE tells you where to drill.


And yet, as I began the process of finding someone to drill out here, I learned that there have been a few dead wells drilled nearby and some bad feelings between people due to this fact. I would feel bad, too. Well drilling is expensive! At present it is about $8,000 for the first 60 feet of well drilled. This is just for the hole in the ground, not a pump or anything. If they don’t find water, you have to move everything somewhere else and try again, and pay again. And moving a huge drilling rig isn’t that easy on timbered land, you have to have a solid road for it and all. Thus, knowing where the best spots for drilling are that are alongside a road with ample space to work unhindered by 100 foot trees is going to save you a bit of cash.
It took a couple of weeks, maybe longer, to find a living water witcher. You can’t find them on Google, let me tell you.

C’mon, we all secretly admired Endora’s take no B.S. attitude


Now I’ll be honest, I am a bit cynical when it comes to hocus-pocus stuff. But might as well have someone with a bit of experience say “drill here” than me just use my designer’s eye of saying, “I think a little pump house would look super-cute right over here.”

So one day, a sunny one none-the-less, a fella shows up with a few branches tucked into his back pocket and proceeds to walk up and down the road. I don’t know if you can be both open and cynical but I was trying. I was watching his hands pretty closely to see if I could detect any change in how the branch was being held. Then he offered to let the don try. “This oughta be interesting,” I thought. Well, here, I’ll just show you what happened.

the don is also a witch

Finally, I took the branch into my own hands. What the heck, it works! I slowly walked the roadside tightly grasping the branch and it began to turn down toward the ground all by itself!!! I would not have believed it if I had not actually experienced it as a cynic. We found a few spots on the property that the dowsing rod says have water. Now to just get a drilling company out.

To be completely honest, I also went to the adorable library in Forks and got pretty much every single geology book they have, and it is a surprising number, I’ll tell you! I had hoped to shore up the witching with some science but alas, while I am captivated by the forces that created this paradise, it has not been of use to find a well. Maybe that is why there are still witches in this day and age.

And now I can count myself among them!