Monday, June 18, 2012

Wild collecting

Joey and Kira were out for a recent visit and we spent a little time wandering around collecting wild plants for use in herbal teas, medicines and products.

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The ranch is a pretty big place and we were happy to share some of the plants that grow like weeds (or are weeds) out here.

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Friday, June 8, 2012

Cleaning house

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We've been busily tidying the house lately. This mirror (from the old Rajneesh dance hall) got the hook and was slated to move up on the hill for long term storage. For some reason though it only made it as far as the front yard for a few days. It was quite odd to see a mirror nestled in the rosebushes outside. I did get a good view of just how dirty my shoes were every time I walked by though :)

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Master arborists

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The other day while we were planting the garden, Nathan and Brian got tired of hitting their head on a branch of this old homesteader apple tree. So what do they do? Get the chainsaw out and lop off the branches in question. Why they didn't fell the rest of the tree (which is practically dead and needs removed anyway) is really beyond me ...

Monday, June 4, 2012

Visions of of the ranch

Image courtesy Stephen Brooks

Friend of the ranch (and wonderful photographer) Stephen recently had some of his photos from the ranch published in Yale's Sage Magazine as part of a series documenting the environmental challenges facing the American West. You can browse through the entire magazine here. Additionally, there is an accompanying photo essay that features several of Stephen's images. In the "People of the West" series, check out images 1 or 6 and 6 of 6 and in Natural Landscapes take a look at image 12 of 13.

It is somewhat surreal to be taken in by these images: you get so wrapped up in the blood, sweat and toil of those fighting for what they care about in the West, then all the sudden I realize that is my home, my family and it is inspiring to be a part in the documentation of these issues.

The above image of Nathan standing at the canyon's edge is from one of our first years out here at the ranch. I can't help but laugh to myself as I know first-hand how invested Nathan is in this place simply through the clothes he is wearing. In the photo you can see how dirty his jacket is but I smile when I think of how every single item he is wearing came across my lap for mending dozens of times. I patched and patched but eventually each piece disintegrated; the pants became so threadbare there was nothing for me to stitch a patch to, the hat wore through in so many spots his head would get sunburned and the soles of the boots (still the favorite boots he's ever owned) got so thin, cracked and worn through, that he would come home with feet as dusty, wet and dirty as if he'd gone barefoot all day. To me, the sheer destruction of his clothes shows just how hard he works and how much he cares about this land. It is our labor of love. How blessed we are, through Stephen's photos, to be able to share that passion for the land with others.

Check out more of Stephen's amazing photography on his Flickr stream or his photoblog where he documented his work and travels through SE Asia.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Ranch recipes: Easy freezy quinoa chili

When we had a big group of friends out in April, one of the dishes Lauren made was a spicy black beans and quinoa (we called it quin-wow because it packed a little cayenne punch!). I already make a beanless quinoa chili and wanted to merge the protein power of the quinoa, beans and corn with some ground beef since Nathan is a believer in "meat makes the meal" especially when there is hundreds of pounds of burger in the freezers.

Anyway, what I came up with was a super simple recipe that is infinitely adaptable to what you have on hand in the fridge and is a very versatile dish that can be served up in a variety of ways to make a quick meal. Make a big batch and stick some in the freezer for later.

Here's the basic recipe:  

High protein quinoa chili

Ingredients
- 1 onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, pressed
- 1 lb ground beef (or whatever meat is available)
- 1 Tablespoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 cup of quinoa (sometimes I also add a cup of lentils too, if you do so, be sure to add more stock, at least 1-1.5 cups)
- 2 cups chicken stock (or water)
- 2 pints of salsa (that's about 4 cups but add as much as you like)
- 1 cup of water
- 2 cups of black beans (one can, optional if you prefer a no-bean chili)
- 1 cup of frozen or canned corn
- salt, pepper, cayenne to taste

Steps
1. In a large stock pot, cook onions and garlic in a little oil over medium heat until translucent. Add ground beef and spices (chili powder, cumin, oregano, and whatever else looks good) and cook until crumbly, about 10 minutes.
2. Add quinoa, chicken stock and bay leaves. Stir well to combine. Bring pot to a boil then cover and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for 20 minutes until liquid is absorbed and quinoa is cooked.
3. Add salsa and water then add black beans and corn. Bring mixture to a simmer for 10 minutes or until desired consistency is reached. Season to taste with additional salt, pepper and cayenne (a pinch to a 1/4 teaspoon is a good place to start, don't go overboard too early though, you can always add more and the flavor will develop over time).
4. Serve warm with a dollop of sour cream, green onions and a side of cornbread muffins.


My favorite thing about this recipe is that I can do so much more with it than just serving a bowl of chili - it acts as the all-in-one, main player in a variety of mexican-style dishes. Here's just a few of the ways to serve it:

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- as regular chili with a side of cornbread
- cooked into slumgullion
- as a taco or burrito filling topped with lettuce, tomato and shredded cheese
- on a bun as a sloppy joe filling with extra salsa
- as a nacho topping paired with shredded cheese, olives, salsa, guacamole and sour cream
- as a topping for a taco salad
- poured over macaroni and cheese for a high-protein chili mac (pictured above)
- baked into a mexican lasagna, layered between tortilla strips with salsa, cheese, olives and green onions
- heated on the stove with a brick of cream cheese to make a chili dip
- top a hotdog to make chili dogs or homemade oven fries to make chili fries

The possibilities are endless. Make a big pot, put it in the freezer and save it for a rainy day or busy evening. I'm sure you will find some delicious way to incorporate it into your meals.

Cheers!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

An unexpected lesson

While tending to some of the chicken pens the other day, I t noticed a waterer was clogged up. We use a type of bucket waterer that feeds a little red dish for the birds to drink from. Much easier than fount-style waterers that must be leveled to not pour all the water over the ground.

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Anyway, I didn't have the tools to fix it at the time so I took one of the random feeding pans we have, dumped the feed, filled it with water and went off to find Nathan. The particular pan in question is a little high-sided and the birds tend to flip it over by trying to perch on the edge but since Nathan would be by shortly to fix the bucket waterer, no big problem if they spilled the pan of water - they won't thirst to death.

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Nathan comes by and fixes the waterer. Of course they had flipped over the pan and were happy to have their drinker back in service. We feed and water again at evening chores and the next morning, after feeding all the pens, Nathan comes inside and tells me that he flipped the pan back over to put feed in it this morning and trapped underneath was a very wet, very cold, very unhappy chicken! After a few disgruntled feather fluffs and some time sunning, she was just fine.

Seems she tried to stand on the pan edge and flipped it over, soaking her in water and trapping her underneath overnight. I felt so bad! We fill pans with water like that constantly but I've never trapped anyone under one before. So lesson learned, no matter how ridiculous it sounds, always check under upturned containers - you never know, there might be a chicken under there!