Brewpublic

September 29th, 2010

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t done anything fun recently. I started contributing over at brewpublic, which is a blog covering beer news and events in the great pacific northwest. My post can be found here.

I’ve also started school and an internship with a winery here in the Willamette Valley. Postings may be sparse over the winter, but I hope to have some time to put some together.

That’s all for now. Enjoy fall!

Blueberry Harvest

August 19th, 2010

One morning before work while surfing the web I came across a site called Neighborhood Harvest of Salem. The purpose of the organization is to glean potentially wasted food and donate it to low income families. Specifically a group of volunteer pickers will show up at an orchard, field, or a single tree and pick all the fruit that’s ripe. The pickers can keep up to half of what they pick and the other half goes to Marion-Polk Food Share or any other of a number of organizations who work with low income families. Of course before picking the owners of the fruit are asked if they would allow picking.

Groups of people and official organizations which glean food have become popular over the past five years throughout the country. As always there are two sides to the coin and some people are upset with the gleaning movement. Some neighbors of orchard owners get upset when 200+ people descend on the farm to pick. This should be of little concern as picking usually only last a couple hours and maybe only happen once a season or a couple times. Besides it’s a bunch of peaceful people hanging out and picking food, not noisy drunken partying. It also seems that some farmers (ones who don’t donate their crops) are upset that the pickers are getting all the fruit for only their labor and not paying cash. They may be worried that it will cut into their profit and reduce their customer base. I definitely feel for the farmers as they are already grossly underpaid, but I doubt that the small amount of people who participate both as pickers and host will diminish their income much.

Later in the evening, after work, I drove out to a blueberry farm to participate in my first harvest party. The sun was low in the cloudless sky, yet it wasn’t too hot. It was one of those perfect Oregon summer days. I checked in, weighed my bucket, and set off into the blueberry patch. Whole families were out in full force. The adults covered the higher up berries and the young ones ran around grabbing the berries close to the ground. It was a true party. I talked with several people while cooking. Some of them planned to eat the berries plain, some in yogurt, some in blueberry pies. People didn’t just talk of berries though as topics ranged from where you worked, what trips you were taking this summer, and when the next harvest party may be.

While checking in I’d talked with the party coordinator, Lisa, about the organization and this particular patch of blueberries. Apparently the owner of this blueberry batch was a classic case of being pushed out by the big agricorps. The local processor which had harvested, processed, and sold the blueberries decided to only take blueberries from large farms to preserve their profits. Thus this grower with only a couple acres of berries had nowhere to sell the berries. Rather than let all the berries go to the birds and soil the grower donated the crop to Neighborhood Harvest.

Pickers may leave at anytime before the party ends (the typical party last about 2.5 hours), so I decided to call it quits after an hour and a half. My five gallon bucket was about a third full so I was guessing I’d picked maybe seven pounds. At weight out my total harvest came to 11.5 lbs! I poured out my donated portion and kept four pounds for myself. I’m hoping to use it to brew a refreshing blueberry beer, if they last long enough in the freezer.

Bull of the Woods

August 13th, 2010

Bull of the Woods Wilderness is located just south of Bagby Hot Springs and east of Opal Creek Wilderness and is relatively lightly tracked area. It contains lowland old growth forest, steep 60 to 90 degree slopes, and even the famous northern spotted owl. While doing a quick online search I even found out that “Bull of the Woods” is old logging slang for the best/most experienced logger in the woods.

My most recent foray into the woods was in the Bull of the Woods area. On a sunny afternoon Tram and I set off on trail #544 from Elk lake headed for Twin lakes. The overgrown trail quickly climbs up to 4400′ while giving some fleeting views of Mt. Jefferson and Elk Lake. Then the trail turns and heads north along the side of a ridge and past several mosquito infested ponds. With the surrounding hills becoming bathed in the late afternoon glow we picked up our pace to make it to camp before nightfall.

The was 30 minutes of light remaining when we arrived at the western Twin Lake. We quickly set up the tent, constantly slapping mosquitoes off our faces, and then just as quickly started a fire to try and smoke them out. This area of the cascades is infamous for the clouds of bloodsuckers who keep campers tent bound for days, luckily it was still a bit early in the season and we were able to brave the little buggers and hang out by the fire. Later that evening after dinner I set my camera up to take a star trail photo of the lake, seen above, and returned to camp to lounge around waiting for the camera to finish. With heavy eyelids I stumbled to the edge of the lake to retrive the camera. Then stumbled back just as clumsily and fell into bed.

The next morning the sun was shining early, providing ample light to cook breakfast by. The forest around had a idyllic look in which a fairy from FernGully could fly out at any moment. After packing up camp we took a refreshing dip in the lake, just as the day was beginning to heat up. The water had a shallow layer of warmth on top and so it was necessary to swim like a crocodile, trying not to lift your body out of the water, but not let it go too deep. Reluctantly we dressed and got back on the trail headed for the car.

The hike out was equally as nice as the hike in. There were many distant views, blooming rhododendrons, hellful mosquitoes, and the pristine Oregon mountain air. I swear they could bottle that stuff up and sell it on the east coast. Joking aside I’ve never breathed fresher air than in the pacific northwest, hopefully we will continue to take our environment seriously here and keep in beautiful for all to experience.

Twenty four hours after we left the car with heavy packs, we jogged down the last hill towards the car. We’d only seen one other group the entire time, leaving us to recharge before heading back to city life. As the car slithered back and forth between potholes, my mind drifted off cycling through the great adventures I’d already had in Oregon this year. Some say to not dwell on the past, but I say cherish the great things because when it’s all coming to an end all you’ll have are those memories.

Summertime Food Carts

July 18th, 2010

When the weather clears and fresh food abounds, Portland is great for outdoor dining. There are plenty of decent patio’s in Portland where you can grab a nice happy hour snack and drink, but over the past couple days I went to two great food cart’s. Food cart’s have exploded over the last few years in Portland and it’s hard to go wrong, but only a  select few offer the very best.

Built to Grill is a Italian focused food cart located at one of the major food cart strips on 3rd and Washington. I awoke late one morning feeling the effects of a party the night before and I was craving pasta. I’d heard of built to grill several months back, but every time I’d gone it was closed. Fortunately it was a weekday and I knew they’d be open around 11:30am. I arrived a few minutes early and watched as the owners (a couple, which I neglected to get their names) prepped the food for the coming lunch rush. Being the first in line I knew my food would be fresh and of the best quality, but as the sign says everything is made to order and this is not a fast food eatery so even if your 100th in line it will be fresh.

After contemplating the menu I settled on the Penne alla Vodka, which had penne pasta, italian sausage, and marinara sauce. The pasta also came with a slice of bread. While waiting for the meal I overheard the owners talking about recent business.  As yelp reviews and the line outside attested this place is well loved. Even with the constant business they take the time to do a food cart right. They even come in to clean the whole cart down on Sunday’s. I watched them prepare the pasta and was surprised at how clean the cart was inside, which seems to be a rare occurrence in the world of street food.

When I received the box with Italian goodness inside I took out the camera to take a picture. Before I could snap a picture though the lady sprinkled some chopped parsley on top to set the dish off showing their dedication to running a fine establishment. The pre meal show did not overshadow the flavor of the pasta though. It’s simply the best food cart meal I’ve had in Portland and can’t be described, only eaten.

The next day was warmer, thus my appetite suffered and nothing sounded good. After going by the Mississippi Food Cart Court at Mississippi and Skidmore to get my girlfriend something to eat I found a curious looking place on yelp called Zenbu.

We walked the 10 blocks or so to a smaller food court of only three carts, but much more secluded than the previous court. On the menu for Zenbu my eyes were immediately drawn to Katsu as this was one of may favorite things to eat while in Japan. The plate came out looking fairly close to an authentic katsu dish in Japan, yet it had a northwest spin with the bright and fresh vegetable’s. After taking a seat at a large wooden picnic table under a shade tree I dug it. Simply delicious. Under the pork katsu was a bed of cabbage and for sides was rice and a salad with some interesting carrot like pasta/dressing. The flavors all went well together and if I had to be nit picky I would say that there was too much sauce on the cabbage/katsu. No worries though as it’s an easy fix, just say “can I have a little less teriyaki sauce.”

I’ll surely be visiting both of these places again. Both have great, but different styles of food. Both are located in interesting area’s of Portland. Both have food cartieers which are lovely to have a chat with on a summer day. Finally both are dirt cheap with entrees around $6-7. If your out and about for a walk around Portland try out a food cart because you just might get a better meal than most of the restaurants in the city.

Radioactive Nettle Pesto

July 9th, 2010

In early spring I foraged some nettles here in Salem. I collected enough to dry for tea and had plenty of surplus so I threw it in the freezer. My intention had been to make a nettle pesto that I found online at Landon Cook’s blog. Well after almost three months I finally got around to making it.

I didn’t quite have enough nettles to follow the recipe so I scaled it down a bit and kinda made it on the fly. When I tasted the pesto fresh from the blender (try to use a food processor as a blender doesn’t do the job well) it was incredibly garlicky. Once I cooked up a portion of pasta and mixed a gallop of pesto the garlic was actually almost perfect. The flavor of the nettle’s comes through very subtly as an earthy almost tea like taste. All in all it was great and cheap, plus with the dollops frozen it allows me to make a quick and fulfilling pasta meal.

Snow in the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness

July 8th, 2010

Last week the girlfriend and I scoured maps, books, and websites looking for a place to backpack to for a night. After a while our eyes fell upon the Mt. Jefferson area. Santiam pass is only 90 minutes from Salem and so is fairly convenient, plus it’s an area I’ve never really camped. While looking at the USGS quadrangles for the area I came across a place called Eight Lakes Basin that looked interesting, but quickly determined it was both too far and too high in elevation. Just south of the Eight Lakes Basin was Duffy lake which sat at 4800′. Earlier I’d checked the internet for the probable snow level throughout Oregon and it was around 5000′. Happy that we wouldn’t be likely to encounter too much snow we agreed to set off the next morning for Santiam pass.
The next day at the trail head I scanned the map and realized we’d have to go over a hump at about 5400′, well above the snow level. The day was sunny and I hoped the recent nice weather had melted some of the snow. With the possibility of not reaching the lake in the back of my mind we set out. The first leg of the hike goes through a severely burned area south of Three Fingered Jack which was a part of the B & B fires back in 2003. It reminded me of some of the bad burn’s in Yellowstone with all the black snags and small tuft’s of green popping up. Hiking north towards Three Fingered Jack, we turned around and stood in aw of Mt. Washington. The view was spectacular.

After passing a few lakes the burn begins to thin out and more green trees appear. At this point the snow also started to appear. Elusive at first sitting off trail in the trees. Then eventually patches covering parts of the trail. I’d hoped to see some mushrooms on the hike and finally some snowbank morels popped up next to an icy patch of snow. I’m pretty sure of my identification, and they are edible, but being new to mushrooming I left them where they stood and continued on.

Before we started to hit deeper snow we encountered more views, crossed a frigid creek, and got attacked by mosquitoes next to a lake. So when the trail disappeared under a 4 foot snowbank with only white beyond we were relieved. Finally we could lower our arms and not constantly slap ourselves and each other, trying to out battle the skeeters. A couple miles and a lot of springtime corn snow later we were tired and wet so we decided to turn back and stay at a nice camp we’d seen along the way. The campsite was surrounded by snowbanks, with a beautiful creek running by and a rocky bluff overlooking us. We arrived early enough to set up the tent and take an afternoon nap before cooking dinner and then eventually falling asleep under semi-clear skies.

The next day after lazing about our temporary home in the morning we quickly hiked out stopping at a few of the best points along the way to take pictures, grab a snack, and swig some water. Both day’s the weather had been spectacular and almost scorching in the barren burned area. The sun had drained me of water and the reflection from the sun on the snow had fried my face. As we drove off towards home all I could think of was an ice cold milkshake.

Salem’s not so bad

July 1st, 2010

Salem is a weird city. I’ve lived in Corvallis, a city of 50,000. I’ve lived in Portland, a city of 2 million. When compared with Portland and Corvallis Salem sits in the middle and lack pizazz. There’s no abundance of hippies, not many places to eat, not many bike paths, and serious lack of community. The one distinction present is bureaucracy. Maybe Salem’s title as Oregon’s state capitol has resigned it to the depths of boringness.

I moved to Salem as a financial decision not out of desire and for the first six months of living here I treated as a place to sleep, but not play. But out of desperation to enjoy where I live I’ve recently set out out to find the soul of this city.

On a cloudy and mild day over the Memorial Day weekend I peddled off on my ten speed, heading for downtown Salem. Being memorial weekend there wasn’t much traffic and so I easily glided through the one way streets of downtown, zig zagging my way around. On the southern side of downtown is Bush park, which features white oak groves, a football stadium and the only dedicated soap box derby track on the west coast.

This afternoon the track was hosting the 15th annual Best in the West race. I parked my bike on the lush green grass next to the track and took out my camera. Kids were coming down the tree lined track a pair at a time. It wasn’t a joke to the racers either, no laughing and playing around. They ducked as low as possible while still being able to see, all to gain aerodynamic advantage.

Every 5 minutes a new pair of competitors would come down the track. As they rolled, not exactly flying, past me I noticed there were three car types. The craziest being a lay on your back sort and look through a tiny one inch crack at the hill ahead of you.

After talking to a few adults running the race and some kids about racing I gathered my stuff to leave. I started believing that if I looked in the right places Salem just might have some coolness to it. It would be a hard search, but surely a fruitful one.

Hike Yeah

June 26th, 2010

This past friday I went on the hike yeah internet radio/podcast. I talked with Alex Head about hiking in Oregon and Japan, as well as photography and foraging for food. Check it out at hikeyeah.com.

The show, along with other good shows, is put on by pdx.fm. If you listen to podcast I highly recommend checking the site out.

First Harvest

May 18th, 2010

It’s officially harvest season out at Abood Farms (My mom’s fiance who owns the property and my partner in gardening crime!) as I just picked the first radishes which are also the first pieces of produce from the garden. This is the first time I’ve grown them and actually the first time I’ve had a garden in several years. Most of radishes are fairly full and clean, but some do have cracks from the few times I’ve forgotten to water them. The springtime is nice because the air isn’t too hot yet and the rains still come to water the garden naturally, but the sun does show up every so often. When we get those five day stretches of pure blue sky it makes it hard to know when to water. The ground isn’t yet bone dry, but the sun can beat down and so it’s a must to keep on top of all the plants. Once the weather warms up it’s much easier to get into a watering schedule that makes the plants happy.

Due to my lack of having a veggie garden in recent years I’m hoping to learn a lot this season. In addition to the radishes there are plenty of other vegetables. My goal is to learn what edibles grow well here, collect some seed from thriving plants to try and “naturalize” them, harvest enough to can, dry, freeze, and preserve summers bounty for the winter time. Here’s a current list of what’s growing now:

  • Beets
  • Snow peas
  • Tomato’s
  • Strawberries
  • Raspberries
  • Blueberries
  • Corn
  • Bok choy
  • Collards
  • Onions
  • Broccolli
  • Potato’s
  • Pumpkins
  • I’ve seeded lettuce, squash and cucumbers, but I think all the seed is sterile as none have sprouted. So while I don’t list them they will probably be seeded with fresh seeds/starts soon. The plants that are doing great are the potato’s, snow pea’s, and strawberries. In fact just today some red has begun to appear on some delectable looking strawberries. From here on out the fresh produce will only increase!

    Anniversary Adventure

    April 28th, 2010

    With the weather becoming fairer and fairer with each passing week it was time for another trip into the wilderness of Oregon. April 25th was Tram’s and my six year anniversary and we needed to get away for some alone time. We wanted to head out for a two night backpacking trip to use some of the new gear we’ve bought and to see another side of Oregon. Over the course of a couple weeks we went back and forth about places to go. The choice was limited; Deschutes River, Opal Creek, and Eagle Creek were the most feasible options this early in the season. I wanted to avoid the crowds as much as possible, but in the end we selected Eagle Creek for it’s beauty and the ability to do a loop.

    Thursday night we gathered everything together, checking the camping list, and placed it all out on the floor. After a good nights sleep we awoke  at a leisurely pace and stuffed everything into our packs, double checking the list to make sure nothing was missed. With everything neatly placed in my tiny car we set off up I-5 from Salem heading to Portland. While in Portland we ran some quick errands, picked up some bahn mi for lunch, and continued out on I-84 heading for the gorge. Thirty minutes later we were at the exit for Eagle Creek.

    It was about 12:30 and the parking lot at the trailhead was crowded with not a single space left. Fortunately we were going to park near the fish hatchery and public bathrooms so that the car would be safer while we were gone. We finished eating lunch and checked once again that we had everything. At 1pm we set off, this being the last time we would look at a clock until our return.

    The trail as a whole is fairly mild with a gentle elevation gain. Don’t discount the hike though. There are cliff side trails with blooming wild flowers, views of the creek from hundreds of feet up, jaunts through perfectly lush green forest, oh yeah there are even 9+ waterfalls. The first section we walked through was fairly exposed and contained a variety of wildflowers in bloom. I was constantly stopping to snap pictures, holding Tram up. Next we saw several waterfalls, but didn’t stop to wait around much. We were heading for 7.5 mile camp and wanted to make sure we made it with plenty of time to set up camp and eat before nightfall.

    Back along the trail we walked around a huge amphitheater of stone with the trail going behind a waterfall. Certainly one of the greatest scenes in Oregon and even with the crowds Tunnel Falls is majestic. I think it’s one of those places you have to see and I’ll refrain from posting a photo, but you can search for one if you like. It’s also me making an excuse because I don’t have a really good photo of it. :D

    After passing the vertigo mile the trail leveled a bit and we walked through several mini creeks splashing over the path. The forest became lush and muted as we slowly veered away from the creek. A quarter mile back we saw the first backpackers of the day and there were several camped near each other. Mistakenly we thought it was 7 1/2 mile camp, but as we went deeper into the forest we came upon a sign: 7 1/2 mile camp. A trail led down to a flat area with several campsites separated by dense forest plants. We wouldn’t need the forest walls though as we had the entire place to ourselves.

    Just as the light began to fade from the sky the layer of clouds above us slowly released its soul. These clouds had one hell of a soul too as the rain continue throughout the night, waxing and waning, heavy then nonexistent. This was only the second trip with the tent and we were both afraid of leaks, so through the night we checked to make sure no puddles were forming. Early in the morning before the sun rose the rain held back long enough to catch some good Z’s.

    While cooking breakfast in the vestibule (which apparently you shouldn’t do) we discussed our plans. The tent had held up, but would surely stay damp if packed up during our next leg of the hike. I also don’t own any decent hiking pants and was only in jeans. On top of the that the section we were supposed to hike was very steep and would’ve been fairly muddy. The rain returned and it sealed our decision to return to the car and head back to civilization.

    The entire hike back was filled with rain and few chance sun breaks. We passed numerous day hikers on the way back, saying hello to all and mostly getting polite greetings in return. Back at the car I was exhausted, but glad to take of my wet jeans and get my feet out of the boots and into flip flops. We were disappointed that we hadn’t stuck it out to camp two nights, but also happy at the great time we’d had. With Eagle Creek checked off the list we could move on to a new destination in the journey to know Oregon.