Sunday, June 29, 2008

One Local Summer wk4: no pictures edition

I didn't have the opportunity to make a special local meal and take a photo, but that doesn't mean I didn't eat local food all week—in fact, I did. Since my pantry and fridge contains local staples, I ate a lot of all-local salads (see last week's post, under "salady things") and sandwiches (fried egg, cheese, sometimes together, sometimes not).

This past week was different than previous weeks because I was ultra busy (instead of just regular busy) and it's really hot out (I don't like to cook lots of things when it is 95+ outside). I also had several meals in restaurants for specialish occasions.

This upcoming week I will continue to eat all-local salads and sandwiches, and I want to make some homemade pasta with veggies. We'll see what happens. But this week wasn't a bust—there just wasn't something "special" that I can point to and say "look at the fancy/funky thing that just happens to be all-local." Instead, it was "just" something like "oh hey look, local foods fully integrated into my life." Hooray!

p.s. it's too bad otter pops aren't local, because I've also been eating a lot of those recently.


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

a comment from an IRS agent on the phone today

Him: "You're the only person in America who knows that rule."

Me: (to myself: you can bet I know all the rules...better to be creative that way).

Of course, he wasn't entirely serious, but this particular thing is one of the more common things that people don't know and not-knowing gets them into trouble at crunch times.

Also, I'd like to note that I'm probably the only graduate student in America who doesn't qualify for a stimulus check. No matter—it would have been applied to my tax debt for 07 anyway. But it's still funny that I don't get one, and I don't get one because I have to work my former job and keep updating books in order to get royalties each month in order to pay the mortgage/HOA/taxes on the place in California, which I couldn't sell because the market tanked big time and thus I couldn't pay all the other stuff I planned to pay off before I went to grad school because I didn't have the profit from the sale.

I'm a little heartened by the fact that my Pullman-only expenses are totally paid for by my TA income, so if I didn't have all this other stuff (essentially, an entirely other household and life, even though I'm not living it) my original plan would have worked perfectly.

Would have.

Ok, enough about that. Didn't mean for it to get all money-dwelly. I really just thought the chat with the IRS agent was funny.


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

one change per week

That's what I've been doing the last three weeks or so. The first one was to stock my pantry/fridge with local foods and to get into a regular shopping routine as opposed to just running to the store willy-nilly when I ran out of something, as I have done for...well, ever.

The second thing I did was finally to switch from bottled water (I swear I recycled the bottles, but that doesn't mean all that manufacturing was a good thing to support to begin with) to filtered tap water in reusable bottles. I have several Nalgene and Camelbak bottles for hiking and what not, and they were going unused while I took the easy way out and just got bottled water. So finally I just got myself a Brita pitcher and keep the Nalgenes filled up/in the fridge. The Brita works really well—the filtered stuff doesn't taste like tap water at all (which I am sensitive to...I grew up with well water and anything citified, especially in California where it had a lot of chemicals in it, just made me nauseous.) Also, I'm saving a lot of money. Seems simple, but there are certain things I've really been lazy about and this is one of them.

The third thing I changed was that I finally went back to the gym. Getting back into a gym routine is really important for my physical and mental well-being. So, I forced myself to find time on Saturday morning, and then I went again on Monday morning. Until I clear out the rest of the pressing stuff I have to do, I'm aiming for every other day. That's a good start.

It felt good to go back again, except for the part where I didn't stretch all that well and my arms hurt. But in general it was a good thing to do.


Sunday, June 22, 2008

One Local Summer wk3: veggies and meat and eggs, oh my!

one local summerBecause I have slowly but surely stocked my pantry/fridge with local foods, most meals were predominantly—if not entirely—local. I have a few examples of the 100% local stuff below. I had many of these meals multiple times because I had the ingredients and they were darn good.

One Local Summer wk 3: Egg in a Basket (with salsa and cheese)Here we have a standard "Egg in a Basket" (or whatever name you called this as a child) but with some salsa and cheese thrown on top.

Is it just me, or is the best part of Egg in a Basket the buttery toasted cutout part? I think it is.

- toast: Moscow Co-op (8mi) Salty French made with Shepherd's Grain (Columbia Plateau farmers, Spokane mill/distributor) flour.
- egg: Troyer's in Potlatch, ID (25mi), via the Co-op (8mi)
- salsa: made by a lovely woman named Virginia, sold at the Co-op (8mi).
- butter: Darigold/Inland Northwest Dairies (Spokane-ish)
- Cougar Gold cheese: WSU Creamery, Pullman, WA (2mi)

Last week I mentioned that I might try to work in some salads. Not being a huge fan of lettuce, I don't have as many salads as I should (I know I could use spinach, but...really I'm just lazy). Not this week. I worked a bunch of salads into the mix. One Local Summer wk 3: Standard Yummy SaladHere's an example of a salad with fixings. I like a lot of fixings.

- mixed greens: Affinity Farm, Moscow, ID (8mi)
- radishes: Affinity Farm, Moscow, ID (8mi)
- eggs: Troyer's in Potlatch, ID (25mi), via the Co-op (8mi)
- Cougar Gold cheese: WSU Creamery, Pullman, WA (2mi)
- Wildbeary Huckleberry Poppyseed dressing, from Coeur d'Alene, ID (90mi), via the Co-op (8mi). The huckleberries are probably from slightly outside my 100mi radius for local products, though.

One Local Summer wk 3: Cheeseburger and SaladThe salad made another appearance, in a slightly different form, as a side to my cheeseburger meal(s).

Here we have a basic cheeseburger...except that it's an awesome cheeseburger because Eaton Beef is really good. Really, really good. This ground beef was marked 85% lean but I swear it was more like 95% lean.

When I saw Nikki Eaton at the Moscow Farmer's Market, I interrupted her conversation and begin gushing about their spectacular beef. And then I bought some more.

- ground beef: Eaton Beef, Colton, WA (10mi)
- egg: Troyer's in Potlatch, ID (25mi), via the Co-op (8mi)
- breadcrumbs: Moscow Co-op bread (8mi)
- cheddar cheese: WSU Creamery, Pullman, WA (2mi)
- bun: Moscow Co-op (8mi)
- Caruso's stoneground honey mustard, Pomeroy, WA (60mi)

One Local Summer wk 3: Baked Spinach and EggsI got fancy one day and made Uova e Spinaci Cotti alla Fiorentina. Italian makes everything fancy. This is just spinach and eggs and cheese baked in a ramekin. And I think it's not "authentic" because I didn't use parmigiano-reggiano, and I didn't eat it as a side. Basically, I had the fixings and wanted something with protein before I went off to teach. This is what I made.

- spinach: Santa Creek Farm, St. Maries, ID (70mi) via the Co-op (8mi)
- egg: Troyer's in Potlatch, ID (25mi), via the Co-op (8mi)
- butter & milk: Darigold/Inland Northwest Dairies (Spokane-ish)
- not local: nutmeg, salt, pepper

One Local Summer wk 3: Tenderloin pieces, Mashed Potatoes with Kale & CheeseFinally, what I made today (for lunch...and dinner...and lunch tomorrow): steak and potatoes (with kale and cheese).

- tenderloin pieces: Eaton Beef, Colton, WA (10mi)
- potatoes: generic local from the Co-op
- kale: Affinity Farms, Moscow, ID (8mi)
- Cougar Gold cheese: WSU Creamery, Pullman, WA (2mi)


I'm left with this question again...if you can eat local as a matter of course, why not do it?

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so let's talk for a moment about rhet/comp and other stuff i'm not supposed to like

I like rhetoric and composition. I like learning about it, I like teaching it, I like other people who teach it. I like keeping up with goings-on in the Writing Center and reading placement exams. I don't see a problem with any of that, but there sure are people who think those statements make me a traitor to my field (just think what people would say if told them that I also spend a fair amount of time in the science and engineering library! the horror!).

My soon-to-be office mate (and already-friend) is a rhet/comp person. I've already warned her that the books I'm bringing to the office will surprise her—I own comp theory texts! Oh no! The world will end! But you know what? Those books haven't engaged in battle with the lit crit texts. Everyone gets along just fine.

I'm on the WPA-L and techrhet mailing lists, and I have picked up numerous tips/sparked many ideas—and not only for the composition/prof writing classroom but ideas for the literature classes I'll eventually teach. I'll tell you another list I'm on: the First Year Experience mailing list. I know, I'm close to getting my literature card revoked. But this fall, my two composition sections are part of the Freshman Focus program. My two classes, and another grad student's two classes, are linked with two sections of World Civ II. I consider myself lucky that the World Civ instructor, and my comp partner, are also totally into this program. We're syncing syllabi, planning activities in the dorms, the three of us participated in a small reading group with the FYE director and two other faculty members around this book, and we're generally just stoked about the whole deal. But as literature grad students, we're not "supposed" to be.

And I think that's pretty dumb.

The chances are extremely high that working with freshmen and teaching composition will be part of my life for years to come. Why wouldn't I want to learn as much about it as possible, in order to do the best job possible? Of what benefit is it to think that working with freshmen and teaching composition is a punishment? Of what benefit is it to denigrate those who do teach it, and especially those who specialize in it?

Even in my lovely little grad program, there are those in literature who won't speak to people in rhet/comp. And I've had rhet/comp people ask why I was reading X or Y or Z when X, Y, and Z are "comp books." I will walk away from conversations when they turn to smack-talking against rhet/comp people. I've made it clear that I'm not picking sides, that there's no reason for it to be a war. I believe it's all borne from insecurity anyway. If that loses me some friends in real life, I'm fine with that. I'll retreat to the comfort of my blogroll, which exists as a spectacular interdisciplinary "virtual department" from which I learn a lot, from people I respect.


and perhaps this is precisely why you don't have a job?

While proctoring an exam the other day, I was randomly paired with another proctor I had never met before. Seeing as how we were there to proctor an exam, I didn't expect a lot of chit-chat. I brought some paperwork to do. Glad I did, because otherwise etiquette would have forced me to continue this conversation.

Other Person (OP): So, are you a...MA student?
Me: No, PhD, lit.
OP: Oh, I'm sorry.
Me: [tight-lipped half-smile of politeness]
OP: I got my lit PhD here.
Me: [tight-lipped half-smile of politeness]
OP: What's your field?
Me: 19th century American, textual studies, digital scholarship.
OP: Oh, I'm sorry.
Me: [tight-lipped not-so-much a smile anymore, wondering how long I can hold on to being polite]
OP: You won't get a job.
Me: [and...I'm done] I'm not really worried about that. [Note: I'm not. Not because I think I'm awesome, but because a) I'm well aware of the vagaries of academe, b) I'm not going to be on the market for three more years, c) I am progressing as appropriate under the guidance of my committee and everything else is out of my hands so why worry?]
OP: [doesn't have a response] You should switch to rhet/comp or something British. I was 20th century American.
Me: I do a fair amount of interdisciplinary work with rhet/comp, and I am decidedly an Americanist. I'm fine with my choices.
OP: [switches over to talking about the students coming to take the exam] So, typically I reiterate the instructions a few times because these kids, they're just not very bright. You'll see that when you read them later. And then you'll get to teach them! Poor you.
Me: They're typical freshmen. I don't expect them to excel at things they haven't learned yet. And I like teaching composition. [so basically, shut the fuck up.]
Time passes. Students are taking their exam. I am looking at some comments on papers from my adviser, A. Other person looks over at the paper.

OP: Are those your comments? They're hard to read.
Me: No, these are my adviser's comments on some stuff I'm working on. [Also thinking, "Won't you shut up? Students are taking an exam!"]
OP: Who's your adviser?
Me: [tells her]
OP: Oh, have you sucked up to her dog yet? [My adviser happens to have a very wee doggie that is always around.]
Me: [And this is where I decided I was done with this person. Don't disrespect my adviser or insinuate....anything shitty.] Uh, no. I don't have any reason to suck up, nor would I. My work speaks for itself, and she's good with it. And so am I.

And that was pretty much that. I left out a part where I mentioned I had a career, and what in, and she was all "Oh, I'm sorry about that" too. Basically, in 15 minutes the woman showed me all the reasons she would be a terrible colleague: disrespectful toward chosen fields of study, other scholars, and students. There's not much left. I am not surprised in the least that she didn't get a job.

[I am guilty of the whole "what, British? bleh!"-type comments, but only to people I know, who know I'm not serious, and are usually followed by some deprecating remarks about my own choices. I claim there's a difference.]

[I am also guilty of having been this person, many years ago, in my other field...although I had a job, it didn't keep me from being a jerk to other people.]


Friday, June 20, 2008

in which my students' exuberance cost them $218

Just finished week 1 of my summer session class. The students are great. They're funny and smart—my favorite kind. In this class, Project #1 is a how-to/instructional document. They came up with ideas on Tuesday and started working on it in lab on Wednesday. One student is writing a how-to for Beer Pong—don't laugh (ok, do, because it's funny)—she's on page six and isn't done yet. Hooray! Writing! One student is writing a funny piece about surviving long distance relationships. One student is writing about how to set up an aquarium. One student is writing about how to master the Asian stereotype (he's from Hong Kong). Good stuff. I am really looking forward to reading their drafts tomorrow!

And then there's the fellow who got really excited about his how-to, "How to Fish," that he and another student in the class (who isn't even writing about fishing, but just likes to do it) ran right out and went fishing that evening and took a bunch of photos for the step-by-step procedures.

And along came an officer of the law (not sure yet if city/county/state/forest/etc) and asked them how they were doing, and how many fish they caught. "Two!" they answered, before realizing "oh crap, we don't have a license." One fellow did...last year. The officer started writing them a ticket...for over $500.

They pleaded ignorance of the law, being poor international students, said they were going fishing for a class project, they'll throw the fish back, etc. Hey, I'd have done the same once I realized that my exuberance was going to cost me $500. The officer knocked it down to $109/each, which is doable for them but still really sucky.

The good news is that they were laughing about it, in that "we did a really stupid thing unintentionally, and it's kind of funny in its absurdity" way. I told them to being the ticket to class on Monday because I want to see it—if the have the ablity to fight it in court (and the court is local), I'm going to help them prep something—a pitch, a document, something—to plead their case and see if they can't just get their fine knocked down to the price of a license.

Everything's a teaching moment...

And in this instance it's a teaching moment and really, really funny.


Thursday, June 19, 2008

random bullets of teaching and stuff

* This is the first week of Summer Session II. I already know that the students in my class are smart, funny, and quite proficient. I hope it will be a painless, yet interesting and in some ways challenging, summer session for them all. A few of the students have already walked in graduation, so this really is their last class, yet they all have good get-the-work-done/learn-something attitudes about being here. At least so far. I've already achieved my goal of making each person laugh at me, and I'm 90% sure of all the names.

* Got the evaluation numbers from last semester's class—two thumbs up. I love me some statistical validation.

* I still haven't taken my new computer out of its box, but I did install Firefox 3 on this machine. I will write a post about it. It's very fast. You know something is speedier than its predecessor when an actual, live human can tell the difference (as opposed to using tools and working in microtime). This Firefox 3 Memory Usage post talks about a lot of the improvements, and I would just like to note that I am personally two degrees of separation from all this awesomeness. You see, my friend/fellow PhD student/soon-to-be office-mate, Donna, is the mother of the fine fellow, Jason Evans, who wrote the jemalloc memory allocator. That's cool.

* to segue to something not-technical?

* I've cooked a bunch of good food this week. The next One Local Summer post will be full of stuff and pictures. Hooray!

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Sunday, June 15, 2008

One Local Summer wk2: Gnocchi in Béchamel sauce with Spinach

One Local Summer wk2: Gnocchi in Béchamel sauce with SpinachHere we have a relatively non-photogenic, yet very tasty, "spotlight" local meal for the week. In my post below I mentioned that in reality the majority of my meals now come from local sources, as I am slowly but surely switching my pantry/fridge to local foods when available.

one local summerThat means that over the course of the week, my breakfast omelets have all used local eggs, butter, spinach, and cheese, my sandwiches tend toward grilled cheese (with various fruit or veggie extras), if I want toast with butter and jam it's all local, and so on. My freezer has a bunch of local ground beef, and there are plenty of local potatoes in the cupboard.

So what did I do today? I made pasta.

- potatoes, still the specifically unidentified ones from last week, from a box at the Co-op (8mi) stamped "local"

- egg, from Troyer's in Potlatch, ID (25mi), via the Co-op (8mi)

- flour, from Shepherd's Grain (Columbia Plateau farmers, Spokane mill/distributor)

- butter and milk, from Darigold/Inland Northwest Dairies (Spokane-ish)

- flour, from Shepherd's Grain

- spinach, from Pokey Creek Organics in Santa, ID (60mi), purchased at the Moscow Farmers Market (8mi)

- salt, pepper, nutmeg: not local.


Doesn't get more basic than this, and I proclaim it good eats. Next week I will make something more photogenic...I might even have a salad! (I am not such a big fan of leafy salads, but I am trying to incorporate them into my life.)

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"extremist" eating but without the fear factor

A few days ago, Nicole at Farm to Philly wrote about an article on MSNBC regarding "locavores" in which the author refers to the practice as "extremist." In fact, the title of the article is "Extreme Consumerism".

Much like Nicole, I fail to see exactly what is so "extreme" about eating what is in season, supporting local farmers, and just in general knowing a thing or two about where your food comes from and just who handled it—and how?

Let's take a look at this quote from the article:
Recently, however, a small but devoted number of Americans have started to think a lot more about the origin of the food going into their grocery cart. Worried about the environmental impact of shipping food hundreds of miles, plus the dwindling fate of local farmers [...]
Can't take issue with this. In fact, yes, this is why I've started thinking seriously about the food I eat. However, this is how the author finishes the statement:
- and obsessed with the idea of eating really good food - these extreme eaters try to only buy food that is grown within a 100-mile radius of their own home.
"Obsessed"? "Extreme"? I suppose it's all a matter of perspective. Again, quoting Nicole because I just woke up and am only a few ounces into my coffee [Craven's Coffee Earth & Sky blend, grown organically elsewhere and roasted in Spokane, WA ; half & half from Broadview Dairy, part of the Inland NW Dairies group which uses milk from cows in the region and processes and distributes from Spokane, WA], "I like the idea of being a rebel just because I happen to like uber-fresh food grown by someone I have personally met. Let's all be rebels! Rebels with a cause!" Ha ha. Read the rest of Nicole's take on it for her comments on canning and the cost-efficiency of her eating local practices; I'm just going to talk about my own action plan.

When I lived in California, I rarely took advantage of the local goodness that existed all around me. I paid little attention to where things were from—possibly because in a Whole Foods in California it's a good bet that a bunch of the stuff I picked up was actually local (if not within 100mi, then definitely within 200mi). I tried only to buy organics, but I wasn't entirely attuned to the production mechanisms involved in my food. Grocery shopping was a last-minute, unplanned, in-and-out experience for me, and although I could have, I did not carve time out of my schedule to go to a farmers market.

When I moved up here to Eastern Washington, the intention was to find more time for paying attention to everything. Although that hasn't worked out quite according to plan (see well-documented reasons why I still have my California job, and then some), I did start making a concerted effort to eat organic/fair trade/local/small farm stuff. I did not know there was a "locavore pledge" that said pretty much the same thing, only in a different order (obviously):
If not LOCALLY PRODUCED, then Organic. If not ORGANIC, then Family farm. If not FAMILY FARM, then Local business. If not a LOCAL BUSINESS, then Fair Trade.
It was a few months ago that I really started paying attention to my purchases, partially in anticipation of the One Local Summer challenge.

I resolved that as much as possible, only items produced within a 100mi radius of Pullman would find their way into my kitchen. As you can see from the list in the right-hand column of this blog, under the heading "my local food resources," I have a lot of options. But here's an example of the process I went through to find local dairy staples (milk, half & half, butter): try to figure out if there are local dairies (hello, Google!), realize the options are slim, find the blog called Year of Plenty (by a family in Spokane that is consuming only local, used, homegrown, or homemade products) and their discussion about local dairy products, go to the IGA and see how the Darigold/Broadview products are labeled (some say Inland NW, some don't), buy them because I was out of milk and butter, then when I was out of milk and butter the next week I went to Rosauers for my dairy products because I was sure they were produced locally.

That process didn't really take that much time, and now my shopping system is set: I shop for foodstuffs on Saturday mornings. I drive to Moscow (8mi) and get as much as I can from the farmers market. If there are other things I need that are not at the farmers market but I can get slightly outside the "local" radius (say, between here and the Cascades) and/or that are organic, then I walk across the street to the Co-op. On the way out of town, I swing by Rosauers and get the local dairy products. Then I go home and prep my veggies. I don't find that particularly extreme, nor do I find the extra ten seconds necessary to flip over a package and see where it comes from to be particularly extreme or even moderately troublesome.

The troublesome part for me has been switching my pantry over, bit by bit, to local products. For instance, I am going to start making fresh pasta with local flour and eggs. However, I still have some bags of my favorite store-bought pasta (organic Montebello, from Italy) in the cupboard and have to eat through it so it doesn't go to waste. Same with the bulk pack of (organic) chicken stock I still have from a Costco trip, or the family-size box of Grape-Nuts...things like that.

However, over the course of a week I can honestly say that the majority of every meal I have at home comes from local sources. That's something, and I will slowly but surely switch the percentages. I'll talk about all that more in my next post, which will be the "official" OLS post for the week.

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Saturday, June 14, 2008

random bullets of the ultra-fettered

* In a conversation about grad school and scholarship and life, my adviser/committee chair/let's just call her "AR" described me as "fettered." It is an absolutely accurate description. Luckily, since I have the most ass-kicking adviser ever in the history of the world, this description wasn't followed by "and you have to change this immediately," because it's common knowledge that I can't (thank you, tanked housing market). It was part of a conversation about having my time spoken for by others without my input/approval/etc, and how she is there to help make sure that doesn't happen. One of these days I'll get around to writing that post about the week of awesomeness, because it really is all related.

* Our six weeks of theory is over. We had a really good time, and I have a to-do list.

* I start teaching Summer Session II on Monday. I'm teaching the same thing I taught in the spring: Tech & Prof Writing for ESL. I swapped in a couple new projects, inspired by stuff that Kristin does in her classes, which are not for ESL, but—as I fervently contend—that doesn't matter. There's no reason at all to teach different things. Just teach the same things (as the non-ESL class) differently. You should really hear me rant about this. Or not, actually. Anyway, that was a digression from the main point: this course begins on Monday.

* I'm really writing these bullets so I can engage my brain just a little bit and get through the tremendous amount of stuff I have to get done in order to catch up to where I should be at this point in the summer. I have a work project that we've been trying to finish for weeks and weeks, but the regular maintenance work has been taking up my available time (thus leaving nothing for the project). Although I finished up the 4th edition of my book, which is available in Rough Cuts format and will be on shelves in a week or so, I'm helping out with the revisions on another related (not mine) book.

* I'm so busy that I haven't opened the box to my shiny new laptop, which has been sitting next to me for two weeks now. I told myself I couldn't start the switchover until I cleared out my backlog of stuff. Sigh.


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

today's weather report

At 4:30am in Pullman, WA (latitude 46° 43' 52", longitude -117° 10' 46"), it is 40°. Compared to yesterday, it's downright balmy!

Yesterday was WEIRD. All the snow was gone by the afternoon, which is good.

We'll see this weekend at the farmer's market just what was killed or otherwise wilted by that crazy day of weather.


Tuesday, June 10, 2008


i guess that earlier 36 degrees was the warm frontI thought it was so funny when I noted at 7am that it was snowing. I thought it was an anomaly and the big wet clumps of snow would stop shortly after they began falling.

Apparently I was wrong.

snowHere we have the current state of my yard. The snow is sticking.

Earlier, I had to run Max to the vet and before doing so I had to scrape an inch of snow off the car windows.

The roads are all slushy.

Did I mention that the SECOND Summer session starts on Monday? And that it is June 10th? WTF?


unseasonably chilly

To all my friends suffering in a heat wave, I'm sorry.

It has been quite chilly in Pullman for the last few weeks. It is regularly in the 30s/low 40s at night, and it has rarely gotten above 60 during the daytime.

While this is good for me, because I am not a huge fan of the heat, this is not so good for the farmers.

Don't worry though—I'll get mine. Once July rolls around I'll be hot hot hot, I am sure.

edited at 7am to add... It is snowing. I kid you not. There are big wet clumps of snow falling. It isn't sticking, so I can't really get a picture. But it is some kind of messed up to look outside and see big flurries blowing around.


Sunday, June 8, 2008

one local summer - wk 1 - yak burger, potatoes, kale

One Local Summer wk1: Yak Burger, Roasted Potatoes, KaleI didn't realize this until it was just time to send my submission to my regional coordinator for One Local Summer, Laura, but she said in her first email that "I'm really looking forward to seeing what we all come up with now that there is more in season than meat, kale and onions (just kidding)."

one local summerUm...ha ha. Look at the meat and the kale (and potatoes) in my meal! I know she was kidding. I also know that I just happen to like meat, kale, onions, and potatoes very much. Very much. Also, it's been pretty darn cold in these parts and at the farmer's market kale, onions, and potatoes are just about it right now. A few more weeks should see more stuff.

So what do we have in this meal of mine (which, being a single person, I had leftovers for a few days)?

- ground Yak, from Tamarak Yak of Santa, ID (56mi), via Moscow Food Co-op (8mi).

- breadcrumbs , made from bread from the Co-op. The Co-op uses flour from Shepherd's Grain in their bread. Shepherd's Grain uses wheat from 28 growers all over the Columbia Plateau, which means that the flour in the bread comes from wheat I've probably watched grow in the fields along the roads I drive all the time.

- one egg, from Troyer's in Potlatch, ID (25mi), vi the Co-op.

- topped with American Cheddar from the WSU Creamery here in Pullman, WA (2 mi). The cows themselves are a little further away: 4mi or so. :)

- bun, from the Co-op.

- red potatoes, from a box at the Co-op stamped "local"—I don't know exactly where they're from, but Moscow is in Idaho after all (famous potatoes!), so I'm just going to trust that they are indeed local. Usually I get my potatoes from the farmer's market but these I already had in the cupboard.

- kale, from a farmer whose name I do not know, but whose farm is in Moscow (8mi) and I got the kale from the farmer's market. For anyone who goes to the Moscow Farmer's Market, these are the folks who always have the really long table that runs along the side of the building and is full of great stuff. I can't wait until later in the summer because these particular folks have the best freaking heirloom tomatoes ever.

- salt, pepper, oil: not local.


So how was the Yak, you ask? Really, really good. It is very lean, rich, and flavorful. You'll note the lack of condiments on my burger. Typically I'm a ketchup/mustard/mayo person, but that is usually because I am trying to elicit some actual flavor from the burger. I purposefully didn't make any ketchup, mustard, or may to slather on this—first, because I didn't have all the ingredients handy to make "local" condiments, but mostly because I wanted to taste unadulterated yak. It was good. I might get more at some point and make traditional Tibetan momos—dumplings—which feature ground yak.

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Saturday, June 7, 2008


In the post below, I said there's only one tree I ever wanted to see in Mariposa Grove, and that's the one called Samoset.

From the parking lot at the Mariposa Grove trailhead, if you walk 2.5mi and 1200 feet up, you get to the upper grove. At the top of the mountain, after passing a few other named trees on the way up (Faithful Couple, Clothespin, etc), you get to the area of the (toilets and) "museum." The "museum" is really just a little cabin with a fireplace and a few posters on the ecology and history of the big trees. Mariposa Grove Museum, YosemiteCheck out the size of the trees next to the cabin. That's not some little lego cabin—it's probably 500 square feet and has a lovely porch. Those are just some really freaking big trees (their names are General Grant and General Sherman—but they are not the Generals Grant and Sherman in Kings Canyon National Park and Sequoia National Park, respectively.).

The cabin you see here was built in 1930 and restored in 1983. It sits on the site of Galen Clark's cabin, which he built in 1861. Here's a photo of the original cabin, taken before 1907, which is found in Clark's The Big Trees of California.

In the upper grove, the "famous" trees to see are the Galen Clark Tree (named for the man, duh) and the Fallen Wawona Tunnel Tree. But I didn't want to see the trees that everyone knows about. I wanted to see Samoset.

Muir's Sketch of SamosetSamoset is not marked in the popular guidebooks or the 50-cent pamphlet you pick up at the trailhead, and it doesn't have a sign in front of it. You can't find Samoset listed even in the better maps/guides/descriptions of trees, such as James W. McFarland's A Guide to the Giant Sequoias of Yosemite National Park from 1949, which includes this great "tour" with descriptions as well as this lovely map of the groves. All I really knew was that it was close to Galen Clark's camp/the museum and looked something like this sketch made 108 years ago (ha ha).

Samoset, Mariposa Grove, YosemiteYou'd think there'd be no way in hell I could find an unmarked tree in a grove of big trees, and you'd be right—except the keeper of the museum, who had just built the fire and was sweeping the porch, was a kindly and talkative fellow. I honestly don't remember how the conversation started, because I was too busy being entirely emotionally overwhelmed by the whole thing (as I am wont to do), but when I said "I don't suppose you know where Samoset is?" and he turned around and pointed directly at it.

"You know who named it?" he said.

As if anyone who explicitly asked about this tree wouldn't know who named it? I thought to myself. "Emerson!" I said.
At the request of Galen Clark, our host at Mariposa, & who is by State appointment the Protector of the trees, & who went with us to the Mammoth Groves, I selected a Sequoia Gigantea, near Galen's Hospice, in the presence of our party, & named it Samoset, in memory of the first Indian ally of the Plymouth Colony, and I gave Mr. Clark directions to procure a tin plate, & have the inscription painted thereon in the usual form of the named trees;
12 May
& paid him its cost. The tree was a strong healthy one, girth at 2.5 feet from the ground, 50 feet.—The Journals and Miscellaneous Notebooks of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Volume XVI (1866-1882), p. 239
If you study Emerson and Muir, it's one of those things you know, since they only met once and the story has been retold from various points of view and it's important to know them all. At the end of Muir's "The Forests of the Yosemite Park", from the April 1900 Atlantic, you can read his account of the event.

If I had been thinking, I would have brought Muir's sketch and recreated it in the photograph. I'm only slightly off, as you can see the pine tree to the right and another sequioia in the background. Since I screwed up the photo, I can't match up the burn scars to the sketch, to see if the burn happened before or after May 1871. But I know one thing—that tree isn't much different since the time Emerson and Muir stood in front of it and RWE named it—just nine more feet in diameter. Ha: "just."


whirlwind memorial day yosemite trip part 1 of 2

It used to be a running joke that I hadn't been to Mariposa Grove in Yosemite. You see, I kept meaning to go, but in each trip that I made prior to this one we just ran out of time/spent more time elsewhere in the woods/got really tired.

Truth be told, there was only one tree I ever wanted to see in Mariposa Grove, and that's the subject of a forthcoming post.

For now, let's just look at some of the touristy trees of Mariposa Grove, like Fallen Tree and the Grizzly Giant. Bear in mind that while I had my camera, I didn't use it all that much. I'm kind of lame when it comes to photos—I forget I have a camera because I have my own eyes and memory. My lack of focus on a camera can be seen by the fact that I forgot my own camera, and when I got to my friends' house on Wednesday of my trip I said, "Crap, I'm going to Yosemite and forgot my camera," at which time I borrowed their old Nikon Coolpix E2000. Thanks, guys! But having a camera didn't mean I used it a lot. You have been warned.

The plan was to get to Mariposa Grove early in the morning, so as to get a place in the actual parking lot and not have to walk in from the auxiliary parking lot (2mi away) or take the shuttle in from Wawona. "Early" meant 8am or so, which means we had to leave San Jose at 4:30 or 5, which we did. Michelle was such a trouper! We got to the park, I showed my little National Parks Annual Pass to the ranger at the gate, and onward we drove into the primary parking lot at Mariposa Grove. At that time, there were only ten or fifteen other cars in the lot. Score!

Fallen Monarch, Mariposa Grove, YosemiteIn the Lower Grove (where most people confine their trip), the first tree you see is actually a dead one: the Fallen Monarch. As you can see, the upturned base of the tree is huge—some 15 or so feet across. By the time we passed this tree at the end of our hike, there were a billion people clamoring around it for a photo.

Next up were the Bachelor and the Three Graces; the description at the ever-hilarious Yosemite Hikes site says:
The Bachelor and Three Graces are a quartet of sequoias you'll pass just after crossing the tram road. The roots of giant sequoias are shallow, usually less than six feet deep, but spread over a large area - half an acre or more for a mature tree. This means that right under your feet, the roots of the graces and their bachelor are intertwining in ways that would easily earn a mature rating in much of the country. But no one seems to mind here; Yosemite visitors are a broadminded lot.
Come on, that's funny!

Approaching the Grizzly Giant, Mariposa Grove, YosemiteHere we have the approach to the Grizzly Giant. The Grizzly Giant is perhaps the most popular of the Mariposa Grove trees, owing to the fact that it's in the lower grove, which is a considerably easier walk. For reference, the lower grove loop is only 2.2 miles with an elevation change of less than 400 feet at the highest point in the loop. The lower and upper grove loop, which we did most of, is 6 miles with an elevation change of 1200 feet at the highest point in the loop.

Grizzly Giant, Mariposa Grove, YosemiteAnyway, the Grizzly Giant is popular, as you can see by the people at its base in the picture above. Remember the Fallen Monarch from the beginning of the story? Well, the base of the Grizzly Giant is twice the size of that one—over 30 feet across; the circumference is more than 90 feet, and (according to the Yosemite Hikes folks again, "it has a single limb a hundred feet up that's bigger around by itself than the trunk of nearly any other species of tree." Not "any other species of tree in Yosemite," but any other species of tree PERIOD. This is a hell of a big tree, over 2700 years old. Boy am I glad that Sequoia wood isn't any good for construction. That's the only reason we still have the big trees: you can't build anything out of them. Hooray!

California Tunnel Tree, Mariposa Grove, YosemiteThe last of the touristy trees in the lower grove is the California Tunnel Tree. You can see the man-made tunnel cut through it, but unlike the Fallen Wawona Tunnel Tree in the upper grove, this tree is still alive. The tunnel is wide enough for a stagecoach to pass through it (the original intention) or for 15 or 20 people to huddle under it in the rain.

At this point, people usually take a left turn and wander back down to the parking lot, having seen the big trees in the lower grove. We pressed on to the upper grove, passing the Faithful Couple, the Clothespin Tree, the Columbia Tree, the Telescope Tree, ten or so mule deer, and a raven who kept flying ahead of us and waiting. The raven was a little freaky. We also saw (and Michelle stalked with her camera) a White-headed Woodpecker. We did not see many people; we saw more people on the way back down than on the way up. We saw perhaps five others on the way up, but 15 or so on the way down—a couple from the South (Arkansas sounded right to me), a family of four from what sounded like Australia or New Zealand, a South Asian couple pushing their toddler in a very flimsy stroller, and eight or ten other random folks.

Although I called these posts part 1 and part 2, the upper grove pictures/info post will be all its own. I'll call it post 0, even though it should really be post 1.5 if we were going chronologically.

Oh hell. I'll just call it "Samoset."


snow plant (Sarcodes sanguinea), for Michelle

Snow PlantAs we were walking through Mariposa Grove, we kept seeing these little plants—gnawed on, mostly—and Michelle (and I) kept wondering what they were. She came up with a name for them, something like "snack plant," which wasn't that far off.

When I came home and looked it up, I was mortified that I forgot this passage from Chapter V, "The Wild Gardens of the Yosemite Park" from Muir's Our National Parks:
To tourists the most attractive of all the flowers of the forest is the snow plant ( Sarcodes sanguinea ). It is a bright red, fleshy, succulent pillar that pushes up through the dead needles in the pine and fir woods like a gigantic asparagus shoot. The first intimation of its coming is a loosening and upbulging of the brown stratum of decomposed needles on the forest floor, in the cracks of which you notice fiery gleams; presently a blunt dome-shaped head an inch or two in diameter appears, covered with closely imbricated scales and bracts. In a week or so it grows to a height of six to twelve inches. Then the long fringed bracts spread and curl aside, allowing the twenty or thirty five-lobed bell-shaped flowers to open and look straight out from the fleshy axis. It is said to grow up through the snow; on the contrary it always waits until the ground is warm, though with other early flowers it is occasionally buried or half buried for a day or two by spring storms. The entire plant-flowers, bracts, stem, scales, and roots-is red. But notwithstanding its glowing color and beautiful flowers, it is singularly unsympathetic and cold. Everybody admires it as a wonderful curiosity, but nobody loves it. Without fragrance, rooted in decaying vegetable matter, it stands beneath the pines and firs lonely, silent, and about as rigid as a graveyard monument.
(bold emphasis mine)

So there you have it, Michelle: the Snow Plant.

[Snow Plant image by Flickr user Ken-ichi]


whirlwind memorial day yosemite trip part 2 of 2

When I planned this day trip to Yosemite at the end of our conference-going time in San Francisco, I failed to notice that Sunday, May 25th was Memorial Day. I knew that the high price of gas would deter some people from making the trek to the park, but that in reality it would still be pretty insane. However, since the primary reason for going to Yosemite this time was to go to Mariposa Grove, I figured there would be some time that was relatively people-free. That was true. But as soon as we left the Grove and made the drive into the Valley, it got a little crazy.

Poor Michelle, who had to deal with me changing the plans all along the way. First, I figured we would potentially have time to do the walk up to the base of Bridalveil Falls and the walk up to the base of Lower Yosemite Falls. That was the initial plan—it was going to be a driving tour of the valley with two major stops. But that didn't materialize.

We were basically the epitome of Muir's "sticks of condensed filth," the travelers who descend on the mountains but are not of the mountains. I felt bad about that.

The drive from Mariposa Grove to Yosemite Valley is a little over thirty miles. Along the way you pass Wawona, which is a good place to take a potty break and stock up on water and food. We tried to do that, but the parking lot was full and we were on a tight schedule, so we pushed ahead. The next stop would be Tunnel View because Glacier Point Road was closed. It had been open, but it was very foggy and chilly and I don't doubt for a moment that closing Glacier Point had more to do with the tons of people who were in the park than the actual road conditions. I can't imagine the hordes of cars going down to the point, in the fog. I almost ran us off a cliff last time I was there, and it was sunny and bright and no one else was on the road. Good call, National Park Service.

Bridalveil Falls, YosemiteWhen we hit Tunnel View, I was surprised to see the parking lot all closed off due to construction. This was going to make the Tunnel View photo pretty difficult to get. But there were a bazillion cars parked on the side of the road, and we became one of them. I managed to get decent shots of Bridalveil and El Capitan—but note a few things: it was crazy foggy, as evidenced by the fact that at 1 o'clock in the afternoon you can't even see Half Dome, and I'm standing behind and below a bunch of trees. El Capitan, YosemiteStill, it's difficult to take a really bad picture in Yosemite. Seriously.

We started the loop drive, and I'm thinking to myself that there's going to be no way in hell any of the lots will have spaces in them, so the walks up to the bottom of Bridalveil and Lower Yosemite Falls are going to be out. No worries, I said, as there are plenty of stopping points for picture-taking—Ahwahnee Meadow, El Capitan Meadow, etc. True, except for the insane amount of people paying no attention to rules of the road or parking.

In brief, we didn't stop. Michelle has a bunch of photos of the wonders of Yosemite Valley as taken out of the car window. For my part, I was having an existential crisis the entire time—how could I do Yosemite that way when I work on Muir?!? I was in such a state that I totally screwed up (partially because of a construction-obscured sign) the route out of the valley. I intended to go out the top route (120 to Manteca) but ended up going the middle route (140 to Merced). Let's just say that if we had done the Bridalveil and Lower Yosemite Falls walks, and I screwed up the route out of the park, we would not have landed in Spokane at 10pm as we did, and arrived at our respective houses at midnight.

But I do love Yosemite.


Tuesday, June 3, 2008

what can't be fixed by a strawberry & nutella crepe?

Not much, let me tell you. [click below to embiggen]
strawberry & nutella crepe 1/3strawberry & nutella crepe 2/3strawberry & nutella crepe 3/3
The three images above represent sheer restraint on my part. I was sharing this crepe with someone and she walked away to talk to someone else right as we got our crepe. I was raised with some sort of manners that say you can't start eating until everyone is sitting there and has their food, so I had a condundrum on my hands. No, actually, I had an awesome-looking strawberry & nutella crepe on my hands. Look at it!

Let me back up a bit. You see, my buddy Michelle was with me at a conference in San Francisco last week. The highlight for her was going to be a panel on "her gal," as I like to call "Margaret Fuller" (that's who Michelle works on, much like Muir is known as "my guy"). Well, I went to that panel too, and I had to leave hafway through because it was not so good due to one fellow running roughshod over the rules of conference presentations and what not (and I was really tired). Michelle stayed to the bitter end, and when we found each other after the panel it became clear that some comfort food was in order.

So we walked around the corner to Crepe & Curry, one of the little to-go eateries in the Embarcadero Center. One side of the place does crepes, the other side does curries, and never the two shall meet. If you're interested, you can read my review on Yelp. From the sweet portion of the menu (savory was saved for another day), we decided that strawberry and nutella was the way to go.

We ordered. It arrived. And then, out of the corner of her eye, Michelle spotted one of the super awesome scholars in the Fuller field and decided she was going to go talk to her.

I sat there with the crepe.

Eventually, I made a little cut, just to see what it all looked like. I contemplated eating some, then thought about that waiting-for-your-friend rule.

I waited. I could see them talking outside...and walking around...and talking some more. Come ON, I thought. There's crepe to be had! So what if this is your one and only chance ever to talk to this relatively frail emeritus professor? Pshaw.

Now, of course I would have done the same thing in her shoes, but I was hungry. Eventually, I just couldn't resist. I ate my half and dutifully left the rest for her.

I wanted to eat the whole damn thing.


Sunday, June 1, 2008

one local summer - a bad start for me

one local summerI've been waiting for the first week of the One Local Summer challenge for weeks now.

I was ready to come out of the gate with my eight thousand different things you can do with lentils and/or potatoes (need a geographic locator? see: lentil festival, neighboring license plate). I was ready to talk about the WSU Organic Farm, the WSU Creamery, the Moscow Food Co-Op, and the Moscow Farmer's Market.

But what happened? I got sick. I've been sick all week (see posts below). I haven't wanted to see or touch food, local or otherwise (and for several days I couldn't).

So, unless "One Local Summer" is expanded to include "One Local Summer of Powerade and Saltines," I'm not sure what I'll end up doing this first week. But I'll try something!