Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Trillium Spring

It's a two post day--I've stored up, and I want to get these things up on the blog, so...

Last Monday, April 20th, was a gorgeous day. Days like that are uncommon in HumCo--at least this close to the coast. We get a lot of rain and grey in the Fall, Winter and early Spring and Summer is all fog and grey. It's all that wet that makes the redwoods big and the wildflowers bloom. Monday was and exception. Yes, yes--it was also 4-20, which is significant to some in the Emerald Triangle. Not to me: my thing this time of year is trilliums. the Western trillium (Trillium ovatum), which is also sometimes called the 'wake robin', is a lovely flower and it is peaking at this time of year. One place to see them blooming is Sequoia Park here in town; the park is not ten minutes from my house by car. When it rains, the trails are all mud. On dry days, though it is a lovely spot. Monday was bright, sunny and a clear 66 degrees F. My hubby and I took about and hour walk the park and this is what we saw...

We started out at the entrance--a nifty concrete pool and waterfall that incorporates an old redwood stump:

The light caught this orb weaver spider web perfectly:

My guy taking pictures of me taking pictures of him under the trees:

A largish patch of trilliums under the trees:

Another dense patch of blooms:

Trilliums start out white and then gradually pinken and finally turn purple before they fade. Here are some closeups:

We also made a stop to the turtle pond--a bit of algaw growth, but the turtles were taking a sunbath:

Nifty leaf filtered light on the water:

Looking straight up at the crowns of the redwoods--150 to 200 feet up, at least:

Thimbleberry flowers:

A waterfall in a grotto next to the path:

The sun filters through the trunks as we come to the end of our walk:

It's definitely days like this, experiences like this that make me happy I am here!


Mangelwurzel. What a weird word. I had never seen it before meeting this odd veggie. I bought this great big log of a beet on April 14th at the Arcata co-op for $2.49. The description on the card had this picture and said this:

"Mangel Beets

From Wild Rose Farm, Blue Lake CA
These huge beets run between15 and 25lb, and at
$2.49/each, they provide about the most sustenance
for your dollar you’ll find anywhere! Mangel beets
(or more properly Mangelwurzel) come from Germany,
and were developed to feed livestock during the long
winters. They make great eating and are delicious in any
of your favorite beet recipes. They are also used in England
for sport – Mangelwurzel hurling competitions are an
annual occurrence in some small towns!"

OK. These things are the size of Presto logs, are pig and cow food and people fling them for fun. Plus, they are only $2.49. Not per pound, mind you--for the whole beet! How could I resist?? I chose the smallest of the three available--still huge, mind you--and paid for it. I got my beet log home and commenced to look up recipes on the internet. (where I found the facsimile of the store card--neato!). Well, there aren't a lot of recipes for mangelwurzel--just seed ads and livestock information. I guess bossy the cow food that gets flung about doesn't sound so appealing to most other people. Someone suggested boiling them, but I prefer my normal beets roasted, so I ran with that thought. I trussed my Beetlog up in foil and tossed it into the oven:

I wrapped it in foil and roasted it at 400 degrees F. for 4 hours. This is a picture of what it looked like post-roasting, plus a cross section.

The next day I peeled it and cut it into chunks, which I used to make a salad as follows:

Mangel Beet Salad

Mangel beet cut into 1.5 inch chunks, about 2 cups
2 dozen oil cured black olives, pitted and chopped
1/2 an orange, peel and pith cut away, cut into sections
2 cups mixed spring greens
4 green onions chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
1 small bunch of chives chopped
cheese for garnish (grated parmesan or some other good quality firm cheese)

for the dressing, I used my avocado orange vinaigrette (i.e., I actually made this recipe up--yay, me!). This uses an avocado that is super ripe, but not dead--very very soft. Cut out any brown spots. Good for that forgotten avocado you don't want to waste.

Avocado dressing:
1/2 really ripe, super soft avocado
juice of 1/2 an orange
1 generous tsp. dijon mustard
1/4-1/3 cup really good virgin extra olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

mix salt with orange juice to dissolve. Add mustard and mix well. Scoop out avocado and mash then mix into juice. I use a latte whisk and mix the bejeezus out everything. Add olive oil and pepper and use the whisk to emulsify a bit. You could do this in a mini cuisinart, if you were so inclined.

Pour dressing over salad, toss, serve topped with grated cheese.

Pretty colors!
It was tasty stuff. The mangels tasted good--sweet, and rather like a cross between a beet and a yam. Would I cook with them again? Yes. This is good, because I have half of one left in the fridge.

For more info on mangelwurzel, wikipedia has the goods: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mangelwurzel

I leave you now with an extreme closeup of Gabriel, who has made it to age 25 (He hatched in April 1984, and I randomly designated 4/15--tax day--as his birthday. What a tough old bird, he is!!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Stupid Taxes and a Hippie Lawn

It's been a while since I posted, but I need to do something to calm down after doing my taxes. If anyone out there can explain to me how declaring student loan interest paid can cause my
California state taxes to actually go from a refund to money owed, I'd sure be grateful. More specifically, before declaring the money I paid in student loan interest, Turbotax said I was owed a refund of $67. After entering the interest, I OWED $203. WTF?? I owed the Feds, too, but less with the student loan stuff. It's all so arcane. Stupid taxes.

In another world, we have had enough nice weather that I have had a chance to assess the yard. I had my first run in with the overgrown lawn on March 31st. What do you get in Humboldt County winters? An out of control lawn, that's what. When it rains, the grass grows, and it rains a LOT here. Lately it seemed like it always rained on weekends which, of course, is when I had time to mow. We only have a push mower--very green, but not so useful for an out of control lawn. On a recent trip south I copped my mom's weed whacker, knowing she wouldn't need it while out of commision. I was making progress, but then I ran out of string. Crap. I, therefore, resorted to the push mower. I did OK, but ran out of metaphorical gas on the lawn corners. The result? A faux-hawk lawn. Or maybe more of a tonsured lawn.

Before half-assed but difficult mowing and after:

Still, one of the trilliums I got at the Arcata Farmer's Market last summer is blooming. Pretty!

If you saw the lawn two weeks later, we are back to square one, and me out of weed whacker string. Still, Happy Spring, everyone! Everyone, that is, except the tax people...