John and I took a lovely walk on the logging roads accessed off Knob Hill. Used now by hunters, they quickly diminish to four wheeler tracks.
We took advantage of a beautiful day and one just before hunting season opened. Hunters can make their way to the Caribou Hills through here and better hunting opportunities. The logged land has regrown with grass, not exactly moose browse, so the habitat has changed markedly.
But what did I see?
A European mountain ash. That’s right. An ornamental tree, right smack in the middle of — nothing. Think about that. The moose have moved on so there is absolutely nothing to hinder its maturation. It looks to be about eight years old. Flourishing.
Jump ahead to early this week and you would have found us camping at Engineer Lake in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. There are aspen, white birch, spruce (of course) and native mountain ash. These mountain ash are slender, wiry, tucked in among bigger stronger brethren. There is no mistaking a native mountain ash for an ornamental.
On our way back from Seldovia the other evening aboard a friend’s seiner, we found ourselves in a pod of about 24 humpback whales feeding with determination. No one on board had ever seen so many whales in the bay at one time. It was really quite amazing. And food for thought.
I’m hoping that you can untether yourselves from everyday life long enough to take a look around your surroundings. Neighbors are just returning from a trip to Denali and made the loop on the Denali Highway. The colors are spectacular and they are encouraging us to make the trip before it is too late — which could be soon.
Your vegetable garden shouldn’t need you for a bit. Everything that you have left in it could benefit from a freeze or two. I am hoping you have harvested everything that the slugs were eating. You probably have a little broccoli left. The Brussels sprouts can stay where they are. I have spread a good covering of crushed egg shells at the base of each plant to thwart the slugs. Seems to be working. The garlic, shallots, onions, potatoes, beets and most of the carrots are all harvested. It was either that or leave them to the devastating work of the slugs.
You might recall that I had crop failures in the beets and carrots. This has proven a boon actually. The first round that made it through the cutworm massacre are harvested and the second and third plantings are coming on quite nicely. That goes for the broccoli I planted from seed. At the time I thought I had nothing to lose and I was right. They have made small but decent heads that we are enjoying with our dinners.
Which brings me to vegetables. Eating them to be exact. I know, I know, I know — vegetables should be cooked just until barely tender, still have a crispness to them.
But that isn’t what I want.
I want my grandmother’s vegetables.
Yes, I admit it. I do not want to gnaw my food. I want to savor. I want to throw my vegetables into a pot of seasoned water with a handful of rosemary and thyme (that I am sure you have growing in a pot somewhere) and a crushed clove of garlic. I want to take my sorriest looking tomato, add it to the melange and watch it rise to the occasion. I want to add a splash of wine. I want to simmer it all until tender (!) and the inherent sweetness reveals itself. That’s what I want from vegetables. Deliciousness.
Or, after whatever vegetables I have on hand have been simmered to lushness, I like to drain them, add a crushed garlic clove, a sprig of mint (that you have growing in a pot so it won’t take over your entire garden), and pour a generous amount of homemade salad dressing (4:1 olive oil, red wine vinegar) over all while still warm and let it marinate. Lovely.