Wednesday, October 30, 2013

October Glory


Not much left in the fields with color: a few knock-out roses, some tattered black-eyed susans, small red wild rose berries.

Time for neutrals. Foxtails. Cattails. Bluestem grass stalks, Sedge. Works for me.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Betrayal at Farm Dover

We've been let down. Like many stories of betrayal, the act was perpetrated by some young, handsome buck. He ravaged his victim, striping her of her innocence and beauty. And then, without a look back, he disappeared into the night.

Here's what happened as close as we can tell. Sometime between dusk on Friday night and early Saturday morning, a whitetail buck attacked our 2011 Christmas tree which we had planted along the drive. He may have done the deed to remove the velvet from his antlers, but more likely, he was attempting to attract females by marking his territory, sending a clear signal to other males to stay away.

The buck clearly broke our presumptive contract that all creatures are welcome here at Farm Dover. Snakes can slither; mice (except in the house) can scurry; coyotes can howl, birds can safely build their nests; even insects stand a good chance of thriving in our garden.

The deer have plenty of places to wander, lots of acorns, fruit and nuts to eat, no hunters lurking in deer stands, and the male species has acres of perfectly acceptable forest trees on which to rub. This bully clearly oversteped his boundries by targeting our family Christmas tree, planted in a highly visable location at the front of the drive. Betrayal runs deep and can be devastating.

One of the most devastating aspects of betrayal is the break down of trust. Once trust is broken it can be very difficult to rebuild. It must be earned back. It takes commitment to work together. I'm just not sure I'm ready.

I understand that I need to let go of the anger, move on with my life, and recognize that it is okay to grieve the loss of trust and the sense of being betrayed. This process will take time, but I'll get there.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Cooking for Friends

Some city friends came over for dinner tonight. It was good to be with them. Dinner was (mostly) from our garden – the last harvest of the season.

Chard, sorrel, spinach, and lots of herbs.

After harvesting from the garden early this morning, I puttered around the kitchen this afternoon, setting the table and cooking salad with goat cheese and roasted and pickled beets, sweet potatoes with sage butter, lamb chops with mint sauce, and chard/sorrel gratins. We capped off the evening with cheese cake with Farm Dover blackberry sauce. Good dinner. Good friends.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Ready for the Root Cellar

Okay, I don't really have a root cellar, but I do have a basement that stays dry and cool – and that's where these already-cured sweet potatoes are headed. First I'll need to wrap them individually in a piece of newspaper and then place them in a cardboard box. I'm supposed to put an apple in the box to keep the roots from sprouting. They should last most of the winter without spoiling. We'll see.

I'll leave you with my favorite recipe for sweet potatoes. I found it in the May 2004 edition of Gourmet magazine. I fell in love with it the first time I made it. It is great with grilled pork or chicken.


Lime Cilantro Sweet Potatoes

2 lb sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon finely grated fresh lime zest
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Put oven rack in lower third of oven and preheat oven to 425°F. Toss sweet potatoes with 2 tablespoons oil and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a shallow baking pan. Arrange potatoes in 1 layer and roast, stirring halfway through roasting, until tender, about 25 minutes total. 

Stir together cayenne, zest, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt in a small bowl. Whisk together lime juice and remaining tablespoon oil in a medium bowl, then add potatoes. Sprinkle with cayenne mixture and cilantro, stirring gently to combine. 


Saturday, October 19, 2013

There's No Place Like Home

No, the house did not land on us. We are alive and well, and just back from a fall trip to West Virginia/Maryland, celebrating our 28th wedding anniversary.

We spent the last week hiking, fly fishing, and even playing golf (twice!). This morning we headed home after exploring the Spruce Forest Artisian Village, near Grantsville, MD. It was here that Ed spotted the wicked witch's legs and ruby shoes sticking out of one of the historic log cabins. I know what happened to this poor witch is tragic, but it makes me smile.

I have to tell you fly fishing for wild trout is difficult. Even with a guide (two separate days) our total catch was miserable. But that didn't stop us from enjoying being outside, working our way upstream, casting and recasting, trying to think like a wild rainbow or brown trout.

We were high enough up in the mountains to notice a real change in the leaf colors, especially on maple trees.

I loved to hear the leaves crunch below our feet as we hiked the trails of Canaan Valley State Park in northeastern West Virginia. Crunch. Crunch.

We stayed three nights at the state park in a cabin. It was nothing fancy, but suited us just fine. We stayed in for our meals, kept a fire going in the evenings, and did some serious reading.

From there, we moved on to western Maryland to a riverfront cottage on the Savage River. I would have been happy to sit by the river all day, but we fished, hiked and played golf.

Photo from Savage River Outfitters website.

It was a lovely time away. On the way home, we stopped off in Lexington to have dinner with Mary, and then headed down I-64 for home. There's no place like it.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Oak-ey Dokey

When we first moved to Farm Dover, I could barely tell the difference between an oak tree and any other hardwood tree. Over time, I looked more closely and gradually I began to identify which trees were oaks. But then, as I looked even closer, I began to see that our farm was full of different kinds of oaks – more than a dozen.

Ed and I have been on a quest lately to identify the various kinds of oaks on our farm. It is very, very hard, much harder than you would think. Some of the leaves have rounded lobes, some have pointed ones. Some have deep indentations and some have shallow ones. Some leaves are shiny; others are dull. Some of the leaves are huge; some are tiny (all over the tree). Here's a sample of the leaves we found just today as we were making our rounds.

From left to right, here's what we think we found:

1.   Chestnut Oak
2.   Shumard Oak
3.   Bur Oak
4.   Northern Red Oak
5.   Post Oak
6.   Swamp White Oak
7.   Willow Oak
8.   Overcup Oak
9.   Red Oak
10. Southern White Oak
11. Pin Oak
12. Northern Red Oak

If any Farm Dover blog readers are better leaf identifiers than we, please tell us which we got right and which we didn't.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

October Panorama

I'm trying to remember to take a panoramic photo out the upstairs window every quarter. Here's the one from October 1.

And here's the one from July 1.


Stay-in-Bed Stew: Sounding Pretty Good

My mother was not a cook. That is an understatement.

She was a can-opener. She would walk into our tiny kitchen at 4:55 and call us to dinner at 5:00, on the dot, everyday. A typical dinner, always served on paper plates, might include Dinty Moore® canned stew served over instant mashed potato flakes, perhaps with a side of mushy green beans from a can.

When she did "cook" it was because she liked the name of the recipe. Her specialty was something called 1-2-3 Junk and, as I recall, it went something like: Take one can of frozen orange juice, mix with 2 cans of pineapple chunks and three ripe bananas. Mash together in a square metal pan and then put in the freezer until it turns into something resembling sorbet. Actually, it was pretty good. The other recipe she liked to make was called: Stay-In-Bed Stew. The concept was that she would made a simple stew that had 2 cups of five ingredients, put it in a 250 degree oven, and then jump in bed for a 4-hour nap, insisting that all her children do the same.

When I was just out of college I was invited to come skiing with my friend Karen and we stayed with her parents in Snowmass, CO. One night I offered to make dinner and since I had no idea how to cook, I made "Stay-in-Bed Stew." It was well-received, but renamed: "Stay-on-the-Slopes Stew."

This morning, Ed and I harvested a bushel of yukon gold potatoes from our garden. I'm thinking I'll have to make Stay-in-Bed Stew. A long nap sounds good.

Stay-in-Bed Stew

2 pounds lean stew meat
2 cups celery, cut into 1” pieces
2 cups carrots, cut into 1” pieces
2 cups mushrooms or potatoes
2 cups diced tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon salt
pinch sugar
4 tablespoons Minute Tapioca
3 cups V-8 juice
drop or two of hot pepper sauce (not in my mother's original recipe)
1/2 cup of red wine (not in my mother's original recipe)

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Put all the ingredients in a large pot (Dutch oven) with a lid. Cover and bake for 4 hours. Serve over yellow rice or noodles. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Life is Sweet

We've been working hard to harvest what's left in the garden and get it cleaned up for the season. Today we pulled up over-your-head okra plants, old chard plants, pepper bushes and the tomato cages.

We also harvested more than 100 pounds of sweet potatoes. Dirt and all, they are currently out on our back porch curing -- which allows the sugars-creating enzymes to develop. After they have cured for a week or so, we'll store them in the basement where they will continue to develop their sweetness for six to eight more weeks.

Sweet potatoes are one of the world's healthiest foods, loaded with vitamin A, C, B3, B5, B6, manganese, tryptophan, potassium, fiber, and copper. Like with my overload of cherry tomatoes, I'll have to come up with some new recipes. Here's one I know I'll make over and over again this winter.


Sweet Potato Muffins
I like to make these in mini-muffin pans. They don’t rise very much -- but are really moist. The muffins can be frozen and reheated. I made these for my Dad's birthday brunch earlier this month and used a gluten-free all-purpose flour. They turned out perfectly.

1/2 cup butter, softened
1-1/4 cups sugar
2 eggs
1-1/4 cups cooked sweet potatoes, mashed (canned ones work as well)
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup milk
Optional: 1/4 cup pecans or walnuts, chopped and 1/2 cup raisins, chopped

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease regular or mini-muffin tins. Cream the butter and sugar. Add the eggs and mix well. Blend in the sweet potatoes. Sift the flour with the baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Add alternately with the milk. Do not over mix. Fold in the nuts and raisins (if adding). Fill the greased muffin tins 2/3 full. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes for the mini-muffins and 20 minutes for regular-sized muffins. 

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Repurposing Okra

The okra in my garden has gone wild and is too big to eat, but it does make a nice centerpiece don't you think? 

Saturday, October 5, 2013

The Pleasures of Reading About Eating

No one who cooks, cooks alone.
Even at her most solitary, a cook in the kitchen is surrounded by generations of cooks past,
the advice and menus of cooks present, the wisdom of cookbook writers.
– Laurie Colwin

Not only do I like to cook, but I also like to read about cooking. I got hooked on cooking/food essays long before there were such things as food blogs. My first year out of college I subscribed to Gourmet magazine, not so much for the recipes, but for the excellent writing that filled the pages each month.

I became a huge fan of Laurie Colwin, a regular contributor to the magazine. She died unexpectedly at age 48 and I felt as if I had lost a dear friend. (I felt the same way when Gourmet magazine ceased publication in 2009). Ms. Colwin published two collections, which are still in print. Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen and More Home Cooking: A Writer Returns to the Kitchen. Every couple of years, I take these treasures off my bookcase and spend an afternoon rereading her essays. She died way too soon.

I recently ran across this food essay written by poet Jane Hirshfield. Not only can she write, she can cook -- and did so for years at Deborah Madison's Greens Restaurant in San Francisco. In her essay, she writes about five utensils of the spirit: imagination, a spirit of curiosity and experimentation, confidence, companionship and a sense of the large. Whether you consider yourself a cook, or not, I hope you enjoy reading this essay as much as I did.

And now, I leave you with a quasi-recipe for roasted tomato soup, which I have been making on a regular basis with whatever array of tomatoes comes out of my garden. Roasting the tomatoes adds a nice depth of flavor to the soup. Today, I made this batch mostly with round and firm yellow tomatoes.


Roasted Tomato Soup

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Dice up two sweet onions and 3 or 4 garlic cloves. Place them in the middle of the pan. Then cut in half about 2 lbs of any kind of tomatoes. In addition to the yellow tomatoes, I used some plum and cherry tomatoes today. Run your finger around the inside of the tomatoes, discarding the seeds. Pile the tomatoes over the onions/garlic, covering them up (so they don't burn). Pour about 1/3 cup of olive oil over the tomatoes and salt and pepper generously. Roast for about 35 minutes, until the tomato skins start to get crispy.

Transfer the roasted tomatoes/onions/garlic to a heavy soup pot and add about a quart of chicken broth, two bay leaves and two tablespoons of butter. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 15 or 20 minutes. Remove the bay leaves and add a handful of basil leaves to the pot (optional). Using an imersion blender, puree the soup until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

At this point, I freeze the soup in 2-pint jars. I defrost the soup in the refrigerator for a day. When you reheat it, you can add a splash of milk or heavy cream -- but it is pretty tasty just as it is. 

Serve on a cold Sunday night with grilled cheese sandwiches. Put on your pajamas, set your bowl and sandwich on a TV tray and pretend you are 8-years-old watching The Wonderful World of Disney. 

Friday, October 4, 2013

10 Travel Tips, Part 2

Yesterday I posted Part 1 of our Travel Tips. (If you missed it, click here.) Today, I'm sharing Tips 6 - 10. I'm hoping these tips will inspire you to think about what makes travel special (and successful) for you, and share your thoughts by leaving a comment.

Tip 6. Connect with local people
It's a good thing that Ed and I get along, because when we travel, we are almost always together. (Well there was that one time in Germany that he went down to the hotel lobby while I took a shower, only to get stuck in the tiny shower stall.) As much as we like being just the two of us, it is fun to connect up with local people every once in a while. We have recently discovered the joys of finding a place to stay through airbnb, a website where private owners offer to rent rooms or entire houses. On this last trip, we rented a charming adobe house in Santa Fe for $110 per night. We had our own yard, a two-bedroom house, kitchen, washer/dryer and large living room. Our host lived just next door and invited us over for a cocktail party she was having the afternoon we arrived. We went! And it was nice talking to Santa Fe-ians.

Our very own adobe.

Our bedroom at Casa Alegria
Tip 7. Go to a church
I'm not trying to get all preachy, but we have found that going to church while traveling adds to our experience. On this last trip, we attended Sunday service at First Presbyterian Church in Santa Fe. It is always interesting to me to see how alike the Presbyterian Church is across the country -- and yet, what is different about each church. Later that same night, we gathered with several hundred other people outside the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi for a candlelight processional through town celebrating the Martyrs' Day, led by a mariachi band. It was quite an experience. 

Candlelight procession
As we travel, especially through Europe, there is always some awesome church to see -- but rather than just filing in and around the nave, we often will stop and sit, just to be still, and take it all in. (We tried this at Notre Dame after flying all night, and it backfired. We almost fell alsleep!)

Station of the Cross, Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi 
Tip 8. Learn about the place 
While we were in Santa Fe, we visited the Palace of the Governors, now a southwestern history museum. We also spent a nice hour in the Museum of Fine Arts which displays an extensive collection of southwestern artist, including major pieces by Georgia O'Keeffe. Because we happened to be in Santa Fe for its Fiesta Weekend, we were treated to an entire weekend of ethnic music and dancing on the central plaza. In Taos, we visted an ancient pueblo belonging to a Native American tribe of Pueblo people. For 1000 years, the pueblo people have lived and worked here. And in Mesa Verde, we spent two days touring the cliff dwellings of the Ancestral Puebloan people.

In an effort to discover what is truly special about a place, we try to understand it history, its art and its culture. I think because of our interest in plant and wildlife here on Farm Dover, we also find outselves drawn to the natural world of the places we travel. On an early morning hike in Mesa Verde, we identified gambel oaks, pinyon pines, rabbitbrush, sagebrush, lupine, yarrow, and indian paintbrush.

foreground: rabbitbrush shrub.
The Anasazi made basket foundations from the smooth, flexible twigs.
The Navajos make a yellow dye from the flowers. 
And we are always on the lookout for birds to add to our life lists. On our trip out west, we saw Virginia Warblers, Hairy and Acorn Woodpeckers, Northern Flickers, Stellar Jays, Mountain and Western Bluebirds, Black-headed Grosbeak, Dark-eyed Juncos (Grey-headed race), and Pigmy and White-breasted Nuthatch. All very exciting to us.

Tip 9. Stay in touch with your beloveds
When we are away, we miss Maggie, Jack and Mary. I know they are busy and don't want or need me calling them to tell them the latest cool thing we did or saw. So, I just take a photo of it and upload it to Instagram. That way, they can follow along on our travels at their own convenience and they know that we are alive and well somewhere along our way.

Tent Rocks, near Santa Fe. An incredible hike recommended to us by friends Sam and Lissie.
The added advantage of these daily photos is they serve as a reminder to me of where we have been and what we had done. I tend to forget what day it even is on our travels, but I can recreate our itinerary just by looking back at the photos.

10. Like a good scout, always be prepared.
One last tip: It is good to be prepared. We always pack our rain coats and rain pants, plenty of good car snacks, audio books, clip-on reading light, pillows from home, hiking poles, water bottles, and, if we ever go back to bear country, I swear we will take some emergency bear spray.

Bears on OUR path, Glacier National Park, Montana
Now that I've shared my tips, I would love to hear about your secrets for successful travel. Wishing happy trails to you.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

10 Travel Tips, Part 1

This has been a year of travel for Ed and me: 23 states, 3 foreign countries, 11 national parks, and 10,000+ car miles. Along the way, we have learned much about how to travel -- simple things that make our trips smoother, more memorable, and more fun for us. I'm not suggesting that you adopt these particular tips, but I hope you will consider what makes travel rewarding for you. Leave a comment and let us know what works for you.

Our basic assumption is that every place is special; the challenge is to discover what makes it so. Here's how we go about it.

Tip 1. Set the stage. 
On long car trips, we like to listen to audio books, especially books that are set in the region where we are headed. The same holds true for books we take along for reading pleasure and music we listen to along the way.

On our last trip to the Four Corners (Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado) we listened to Tony Hillerman's Listening Woman, part of his Navajo mystery series. Not great literature, but the story takes place in the towns we were visiting and the story is compelling enough to make the desert miles fly by.

On this trip, Ed was reading Still Wild: Short Fiction of the American West 1950 to Present, edited by Larry McMurtry. On our last trip to Ontario, I read a collection of short stories by Canadian writer extraordinaire Alice Munro, while Ed was into Escape: In Search of the Natural Soul of Canada, by Roy McGregor.

Often Ed will create a playlist on his i-pod that features location-specific songs: cowboy songs for out west, Canadian songwriters/folk singers for our trips up north; lovely French tunes for Paris. Nothing is more fun that strolling down the Champs-Élysées listening to Charles Trenet singing about strolling down the Champs-Élysées.

Tip 2. Take the back roads and stop often.
We much prefer to drive on our trips (as opposed to flying so you don't have to take your shoes off) and often we will set our GPS to exclude interstate highways. We find the back roads are almost always more interesting. We try hard to keep our itinerary flexible so we can stop along the way. On our most recent trip, we took the winding high road from Santa Fe to Taos through the Sangre de Cristo Mountains on the route Native Americans and early Spanish settlers took.

We stopped a half dozen times on what was supposed to be a two-hour trip. Our first stop was at the Santuario de Chimayó, a shrine built in 1814. The story is that a villager saw a light coming from the ground, and when he dug away at it, he found a cross. He carried the cross to a nearby church where it was stowed near the alter. The next morning, the cross was gone and was later found at its original location. This happened three more times before they decided to build the Santuario de Chimay where the cross was. Word quickly spread of the mystical powers that cured illness. Today, busloads of pilgrims stop to scoop up a bit of the sandy soil from where the cross was found to rub on damaged limbs or other body parts that need healing. For good measure, I applied some holy sand to my achy knees and dumped a bit down my bra, rubbing the rest on Ed's sore shoulder.

After visiting the shine, we walked around the town, checking out the jewelry, weaving and pottery crafted by local artists.

Our next stop was the tiny mountain town of Cordova where we sought out the woodcarving art of Sabinita Lopez Ortiz. Sabinita is a wood carver like her father and grandfather. She uses white aspen and cedar in her primitive folk art, which has found its way into the Smithsonian Institution. A small sign directed us to her workshop – a converted garage – where Sabinita's husband enthusiastically welcomed us. In addition to showing us Sabinita's carvings, he also was anxious to show us his chili pepper garden located under an apricot tree in the front yard near two kiva ovens.

I fell in love with one of Sabinita's santos pieces featuring SanYsidore el Labrador, patron saint of farmers and rural communities. Chris, Sabinita's husband, explained that Ysidore was visited by an angel who took over his plow so that Ysidore could attend Mass.

This piece is now at home at Farm Dover. I like the thought of a patron saint watching over our little farm.

From Cordova, we wound our way through a number of other villages, before entering the Carson National Forest with its towering ponderosa pine, aspen and cedar groves filled with song birds; its valleys and vistas offering views worth remembering.

Fifty-six miles after leaving Santa Fe, and five hours later, we checked into the Hotel La Fonda, on the central plaza in Taos.

Tip 3. Eat where and what the locals eat
Eating and drinking are central to our travel enjoyment. It takes a bit of on-the-road research to figure out the best places to eat. We cross off any chain restaurant (with the slight exception of a Starbucks, see below). Our goal is to figure out where the locals eat and head there. While Ed is at the wheel, I'm at the i-pad, searching for our next meal. I tend to start by googling restaurants in ___ city, and then select the Urbanspoon listing or OpenTable – seems to me these two sites have more reviews by locals, whereas Tripadvisor tends to focus on traveler reviews. Urbanspoon offers the ability to filter restaurant searches by neighborhood, type of food, special features (such as gluten-free), and price.

I look for restaurants that feature local farm sources or quirky menu items. I read the reviews, both good and bad ones.

On our trip home from Ontario this summer, we were passing through Eau Claire at lunchtime and I stumbled on a restaurant called Ray's Place: 92% of reviewers liked it (55 reviews) and almost all of the reviewers raved about the bean soup, the ham sandwich and the roast beef sandwich, many mentioning the mustard that is served alongside. We keyed the address into our GPS and got hungry. The outside of Ray's was a bit sketchy, but we parked and went in anyway. There were a number of tables in the dimly lit dining room, but it looked like most of the patrons were at the bar, so that's where we took a seat. We soon discovered that the only things on the menu were: bean soup, ham sandwiches, and roast beef sandwiches. Oh, and they had small packages of peanut M & M's for dessert. About three minutes after ordering, our soup and sandwiches were served up by the bartender. Each meat-piled-high sandwich was served on a small paper napkin. The guy sitting next to us, slid down the extra-hot mustard and then watched in great amusement as I slatered it on my ham sandwich and took a big bite. Over lunch, he became our new best friend, telling us how he had been coming to Ray's for nearly 50 years. We parted with him following us outside to give some very specific driving instructions on how to get back on the expressway, but then he decided to drive us to the on-ramp. If you find yourself in Eau Claire, find your way to Ray's Place.

We have also found locally-owned coffee shops to be great places to find. We get better coffee than from a gas station and usually a freshly baked scone. Only if we can't find a local shop will we stop at Starbucks. And, if we find ourselves in a big college town, we make our way down to the student hangout part of town, where we can almost always find an incredible burger or pizza. In Albuquerque near the University of New Mexico campus, we were treated to free orange juice and a sweet roll just for being first-time visitors to the Frontier Restaurant.

Given a choice, we will order items on the menu that are special to that particular area. On our most recent trip out west, we sampled traditional New Mexican cuisine, including Navajo fry bread, green chili rellenos, fish tacos, enchiladas, and huevos rancheros. We drink the local craft beers or locally produced wines. On our southwest trip, I felt obliged to try the local margaritas -- the prickly pear one was the best.

Tip 4. Find a farmers' market
We love to seek out local farmers' markets and have done so from Santa Fe to Paris, with other stops this year in Madison, WI; Mirepoix, France; Eau Claire, WI, Tifton, GA, Omaha, NE, and Springdale, UT. Nothing entertains me more than wondering up and down the aisles checking out what's in season in that particular place. In Paris, it might be truffles and trout; in Madison, cheese curds and apple cider; in Santa Fe, it was chilies, and more chilies.

And some very beautiful wool yarn...

We make a point of buying a small jar of honey at these various markets. In our pantry right now, we have honey from France, Germany, Spain, Georgia (the state), Utah, and my favorite: Farm Dover. Our latest purchase was some tamarack raw honey from the Springdale, UT market.

Tamarack Honey
Tip 5. Collect something 
In addition to our honey purchases, we each have our eyes out for something small to add to our collections. I like to pick up wooden kitchen utensils on my travels, both for myself and for the kids. They are not expensive and easy to pack.

Ed likes to find unusual pocket or kitchen knives. He just has to remember not to pack them in his carry-on luggage.

We both stay on the lookout for pieces of one-of-a-kind pottery -- vases, bowls or pitchers. Once back at home, I get a kick out of using them and recalling where we found them.

My favorite vase, purchased in Wilno, Ontairo -- Canada's first Polish settlement.
Not everything we collect takes up space in our luggage. We add to our bird life lists and wildflower lists and we "color" in states never before visited.

To be continued...

You will have to wait until tomorrow for tips 6-10. I'm tired of writing and I'm sure you are tired of reading. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013


There are 401 national park units in the United States, from Civil War battlefields to redwood forests to vast remote mountain ranges. Last year, 287 million people visited them. Ed and I were two of those people. We visited 12 sites.  Today, they are all closed, thanks to the government shutdown. I'm so glad we took our southwest trip last month.  

I received a text today from my friend, Patrice, who had travelled with some friends to the Smoky Mountains. The park, and all the roads through it, were closed. How disappointing and frustrating it must be for those who planned autumn trips to their National Parks, only to find them closed.

I wanted to remember each of the 11 sites that we visited in the past twelve months. Here's my walk down that memory lane hiking path.

Andersonville National Historic Site

Mount Rushmore, South Dakota
Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona

Badlands National Park, South Dakota

Big Bend National Park, Texas

Glacier National Park, Montana

Theodore Roosevelt National Park,  North Dakota
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Zion National Park, Utah

Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado
Grand Canyon, Arizona