Here’s a great way to dry plastic bags for reuse. Someone gave it to me as a gift and I use it every day without fail. One of the handiest kitchen gadgets ever!I have it hanging about my kitchen sink (chain and hook are included) but it stands alone as well; the center column can be used to dry reusable water bottles. There are 8 spokes for plastic, pastry, or other lightweight bags. Made from sustainably harvested wood.
Just moved to the same island that Hannah lives on and am integrating into a rural community once again. I’ve made this promise to myself for years, that I’d return to where I can see eagles fly overhead, deer out my kitchen window and fields of grass sweeping over the landscape. My latest frontier edge these days is unwinding into a slower life, letting go of what has been and opening to new possibilities. Never comfortable, always challenging and life changing.
“Action and reaction, ebb and flow, trial and error, change – this is the rhythm of living. Out of our over-confidence, fear; out of our fear, clearer vision, fresh hope. And out of hope, progress.” ~ Bruce Barton
Here’s Kathy out on the trail with her team. Follow the red arrow and take a look at Trixie, hamming it up for the photographer. What a smile!
What’s not to love? Dogs…
Molly wouldn’t get out of the car. Hannah and I were in eastern Washington visiting Tara at 3-Bells Ranch and Molly, The Courageous Snake Finder, decided she would very much like a vacation to the Land of Somewhere Else.
As we were packing to leave, Hannah, who’d been praising Molly all weekend for her bright spirit, teasing that we’d like to take her home, found Molly waiting in the car. Molly pretended that she didn’t hear us tell her that she had to get out; that although we’d love to take her, Tara needed her. She was, after all, a Very Brave Animal, highly prized and valued on the ranch. Molly sighed. She needed a vacation…really she did.
Connecting With Each Other
Pondering the events of our excursion, it became clear to me that in order to survive in this rapidly changing world, we need to consider each other in more ways than ever before. As Tara turns her property into production growing hay and raising beef and rabbit I’m reminded that rising expenses, prohibitive fuel costs, and erratic consumer spending conspire to challenge us in ways that force both connection and creativity.
It’s the very thing that inspired this blog.
Buying close to home or from one another is a key principle of sustainability. When you click through from one of the ads on these pages, Hannah and I make a small commission on the sale that helps support us and this blog. It’s just that direct.
Rural people understand what it takes. Patronizing and hiring friends and community members is a no-brainer. Not necessarily so in the cities, where selection is vast and people are used to sussing out ‘the best for the least.’ Sustaining those you care about, those you know, those you trust is the nucleus of community.
I bought and cooked some of Tara’s rabbit meat, knowing how the rabbits were raised and butchered; knowing that ultimately, they served to help her survive. I prepared that rabbit in a totally different spirit than I do the meat I buy in the store. Although I buy organic and give thanks for the life that nourishes mine, I knew intimately the source of this food. I could make conscious connection to all the elements, all the effort, that went into getting it to my table.
Rabbit Coq Au Vin ala Libby
One 3-4 pound domestic rabbit
2 large onions, chopped
3 cloves crushed garlic
Mushrooms, as many as you want
Flour for dredging (I used a gluten free mixture)
1 tsp salt
Pepper (as much as you like)
1 tsp smoked paprika
2 c. sake (Japanese white wine)
Olive Oil for browning, maybe 3 tablespoons
1 cup sour cream
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Cut rabbit as you would a chicken; wash well and pat dry. Mix flour, salt, pepper and paprika together and dredge rabbit in flour mixture. Heat cast iron dutch oven; add olive oil (don’t let it get too hot); brown rabbit pieces; turning once. (If the pot isn’t big enough, brown what it will hold and remove to platter until all pieces are browned and ready).
When all pieces are browned, return to cast iron pot, add garlic, chopped onion and sake. Cover and bake for 1.5 – 2 hours, checking occasionally to add more moisture (water, sake or chicken broth if you like). You should maintain 2 – 3 inches of liquid in the pot.
When rabbit is fork tender, remove from pot with slotted spoon. Make a gravy by adding sour cream to pan drippings and whisk until smooth, adding a little of the dredging flour if you like thicker gravy. Season to taste. Add rabbit pieces back to the sour cream gravy and serve the whole thing over rice or noodles. If you want a fancier presentation, spoon cooked rice or noodles onto a serving platter, top with rabbit pieces, pour sour cream gravy over the whole thing, sprinkle with shredded fresh parsley and a little paprika. Delicious!
This Changing World
We all need to face the possibility that things are not going to return to ‘normal’ in this country, maybe even the world. By ‘normal’ I mean before 9/11. That event, whatever you may think or know about it, was a turning point that woke us up to facts and fictions that are still unfolding. The economic collapse that we’re in was predicted; the events of the last decade follow a well-worn pattern, and although we don’t have all the pieces, we all sense that ‘something wicked this way comes.’
Sounds spooky, doesn’t it? I waffle between fear and the thrill of possibility. I know that all births are preceded by transition, and that transition is a touch and go time that can last moments or millenniums. I sense that we’re in a big one and that’s really all I need to know.
Replacing fear thoughts with hope isn’t enough though. Action is what matters on the ground. Connecting to each other, forming community, supporting one another’s endeavors, talking over the dimensions of change we see (or think we see), being open to new ways and willing to prune the dead weight…these are the steps that help midwife change.
Those of us that operate on the edge may not know what the next footfall will bring, but we are all pathfinding. We are leaving footprints for others who might pass this way and need to find their way.
Tara’s coming over to the western side of the Cascades today to get supplies and rescue me from the maudlin moment I was having yesterday while making plum jam.
Since returning from Michigan, where I once again tuned into the rural heartbeat, I’ve felt lost in translation. Do you have any idea what’s going on in the rural heartland of this country? The economy has devastated it.
More than half of my life was spent in rural culture (except for early adulthood where I had my fling with L.A., San Francisco and Seattle), so my values are rooted in country/frontier life. But I’ve lived (mostly) in Bellingham for 23 years now and have been inculcated into a comfort level that is both alluring and precarious.
Bellingham is small by city standards. It is very progressive in its social and economic politics. BALLE — the Business Alliance of Local Living Economics, a nationwide network of 75 organizations working toward sustainable local economies, is moving its national headquarters here and has appointed Michelle Long, co-founder and director of Sustainable Connections, one of BALLE’s most successful community networks, as Executive Director. Michelle and her husband Derek have worked tirelessly for the past 8 years to encourage local businesses to work together toward sustaining a healthy local economy. God knows we needed it. Bellingham is the last largest economic center on Interstate 5 before the Canadian border and we are influenced by the Canadian economy, the migration of larger employers to elsewhere and a growing populace. Sustainable Connections is helping people understand something that rural folks have always known…when you buy from each other, the money stays in local circulation. They’ve encouraged consumers to think local/buy local, and for everyone to join in breathing new life into our local and regional farms.
This city is also the birthplace of 4th Corner Exchange, a sustainable community currency (trade) network dedicated to the active trading of Life Dollars rather than wallet dollars. The network is made up of people from all walks of life offering services in exchange for other services, using Life Dollars or Sound Dollars as currency.
Upper Michigan, meanwhile, is dying on the vine. Schools and mills and nursing homes are closing, the tax base is shrinking and the cost of fuel is over the moon, unreachable for thousands of people who are making hard choices between things like heating their houses this winter and eating, or buying medications and putting gas in the car. Rural America has been hit so damn hard by this twisted economy that it’s staggering. Surreal, actually, to someone from the coast. At least we have opportunity here, precarious as it may be. I couldn’t help but count my blessings.
So what’s with the maudlin moment? Well, I put on some country music while making plum jam (plums ala Hannah’s heavily-laden, South Whidbey Island sugar plum trees) and sang my way through canning with Patsy Cline, Jim Reeves, John Denver, Crystal Gayle and Allison Krauss. By mid-afternoon, I was crying real tears over lost loves, the good ole’ days picking lowbush cranberries in the blue-sky wilderness of Alaska, driving hay trucks through fields with only the magpies to keep me company, and laying my head against the ruminating belly of my goats as I milked on mid-winter evenings with the smell of goat in my nose and the sound of grain-chewing in my ears. Allison’s song, “Simple Love” sent me through years of relationships that never turned out as I thought they would, and Patsy Cline’s “Crazy” assured me that I was damn lucky they didn’t.
Tara called just as I’d added the pectin to the rolling boil of ruby red plum goop, so we couldn’t talk long. She’d been working on her truck and was getting ready to head over here to bring her cousin to the airport. She heard the music and my tone, and zeroed right in on the headspace.
“Yeah, well, I quit listening to that stuff when we were working on changing up our life scripts years ago, remember? I figured if I keep lolling around in the ‘somebody done somebody wrong’ energy, I would just perpetuate that as the way life is…and it isn’t… if you intend it to be otherwise.” She was right of course. Intention is a big part of reality.
I was reminded of why I quit listening to that music in the first place. It made me ache. It made me feel alive and victimized at the same time; it reminded me of all my losses and reinforced that I’d always need a man to be whole, whether he was an asshole or a saint. It was poetic mother’s milk as I grew through my formative years, and as such, I loved it then and love it now. But the story’s all wrong for me.
When John Denver sings “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” I’m right there, heading back to what I love. And I’m also right here, in Bellingham, on a city lot, dense with gardens and fruit trees and more tomatoes than I ever thought possible. I yearn for open spaces as my neighbor on one side cranks up his lawn edger that screams when the blade hits the sidewalk, and the neighbor on the other side starts his lawn mower.
I turn on the hot running water to de-goop my hands, shut the noise out with my back door, and decide to make a quickie run to the grocery store, 5 minutes away. This is an edge. I’m living on it. I just don’t know what frontier it is.
Bumper crop of plums? Me too. Made jam and sauce and didn’t know what to do with the rest. Found a recipe in an ancient old cookbook for brandied plums, using cherry brandy. Sounded great! But no cherry brandy on hand. However, way back in the cupboard I found orange brandy so I’m soaking a load of sugar plums (otherwise known as Italian prunes) in that. Will serve them over ice cream or make jam out of them for Christmas if they’re good. Oh, and I added a few whole allspice and a stick of cinnamon to the mix.
I had a rare treat last Wednesday, the privilege of driving back into Denali National Park on a private bus, back into the depths of a wonderland of animal, plant and geological diversity that has few rivals on earth.
The park is the size of the state of Massachusetts. The only road goes a mere 94 miles in, but a wild and winding, cliff-hanging dirt road, passing Denali, and ending finally on the banks of Moose Creek. Closed to the public unless they have a special pass, one must take a bus to avoid harassing wildlife, who conducts their daily activities within full view of passers-by since they are not hunted or chased.
We saw 2 sow grizzlies and their twins foraging for vegetation and voles, a lynx, moose, caribou, a golden eagle, beaver, an assortment of ducks and raptors. All under a vivid blue sky with the towering white hump of “The Great One,” more aptly named by the indigenous peoples here than a US President, McKinley, who had never stepped foot in Alaska.
I was privileged to have worked as the wrangler at the end of the road at a remote lodge that offered horseback tours into the Kantishna Hills, a mere 20 miles from the north face of Denali, years ago. For 5 summers I took small groups of adventurers up a creek and into the hills, where no one else ever went. We often passed grizzly tracks and a few munching off the trail, my heart pounding but keeping a steady pace with my guests behind me. My favorite part was climbing out of valley with a fast moving creek, moving steadily up past treeline and into the alpine tundra, while Denali peeked from behind another hill and then came into full view, filling my field of vision with the enormity of the highest mountain in North America, and the tallest mountain in the world from base to top. I entered a cathedral of such grand proportions anything man-made was totally insignificant by comparison.
The horses stretched out as we climbed higher, my hands in their mane,
my entire body alive and connected. I loved sharing this sacred place. At the top the horses would rest and we’d eat lunch in the tundra, small plants entwined in an ecological dance of harmony: berries, flowers, grasses, mosses, lichens, dwarfed trees, with the north face of Denali facing ours.
Rain. Our communal prayers released a few drops from the heavens, then a few more
here and there. What an odd sensation! Now for several days it has increased to a
non-stop downpour. Forest fires in Alaska are out, thankfully, the garden is sweetly
bathed, but after several days I’m ready for it to stop. The dust has turned to
muck, the horses slipping in their now sludgy corral. Feel like such a whiner this
summer, I think because nothing has been in moderation, weather-wise. Whatever it
does, it does and keeps on doing it. The balance is missing. I’m on a see-saw — being
slammed up and down between extremes. Hang on!
Jane is a blue-eyed beauty, an awesome lead dog that was sold for $4,000 4 years ago from a retiring Iditarod musher to another. She was run too hard and injured, then traded to a veterinarian for vet work. She was made to run 60 miles at -65F
without conditioning and collapsed on the trail. She was then given to me (because it was figured she would never run again I’m sure.) Her original owner was stunned when he heard this story.
She had a slight shoulder injury when I got her. She is a gem, one of those rare leaders you can trust your life to…she is now 11 and in semi-retirement, relaxing under a shady tree as I write this. She is a gentle soul, and I shudder to think what she has been put through.
Last winter, after a huge snow, about 2 ft, our trail was obliterated. The snowmachine guy couldn’t find it in many places, which meant we would sink and flounder without a base. We had guests, so I hooked up Jane and nine others, put the guests in and off we went. She found the original trail under all that snow.
I was screaming her name and yahooing and tears ran down my face. How these dogs do such things is nothing short of mindboggling.