Saturday, February 28, 2015

Along The Royal Road

Highway 101 aka El Camino Real: To facilitate overland travel, Mission settlements were approximately 30 miles apart, so that they were separated by one long day's ride on horseback along the 600-mile long El Camino Real, Spanish for "the Royal Highway", (also known as the California Mission Trail). Tradition has it that the padres sprinkled mustard seeds along the trail in order to mark it with bright yellow flowers.  Wikipedia

The division between North County and South County is the steep Cuesta Grade (7% grade, 1522' elevation). The beautiful city of San Luis Obispo lies just south of the Grade. I live in North County, but I work in South County. I've only met a handful of us who make the long drive south. My co-workers and patients often comment on my commute, they live a mere 5-10 minutes away, it takes me 45-60 minutes to drive to the hospital.

South County folks look incredulous when I share that my commute isn't too bad.

I tell them about: The animals I see ~

The stunning Santa Margarita ranch lands and hills covered with old oak ~

The wildflowers just starting their bloom - orange California Poppy, yellow Mustard - soon to cover the hillsides above Shell Beach. On the drive back home, the sun sets over Avila Beach and the Pacific ocean.

I mention our beautiful homestead, the Vista, our animals - a slice of heaven that would have been unaffordable in SLO or South County. We know, we've looked.

So, maybe it's okay for South County folks to think of North County as "Hell" (smokin' hot summers, 100°+) or "A whole 'nother Country" (Yeehaw!). Maybe it's okay for South County folks to be unconvinced that North County is a great place to live. 

We'll just keep it as our own little secret.

View from the Vista, overlooking Hwy 101

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Out and About: Los Padres National Forest

Hi Mountain Lookout
February 20, 2015


My spontaneous mid-morning idea was a day trip to Carrizo Plain National Monument to see if the wildflowers were in bloom. We drove till we got hungry, which wasn't very long since we left at noon, and stopped at Turkey Flats OHV staging area for a picnic lunch. No one around and the only sounds were the wind and birds in the trees.

The trip to Carizzo was nixed by The Man since we had gotten such a late start and he instead headed to Hi Mountain Lookout road. The Man had driven the steep dirt road several times with his motorcycle; it would be a first for me and the Goatmobile (aka Subaru Forester).

Salinas River crossing?

It's true: The grass is greener on the other side.

High atop the the Santa Lucia Mountain range (3198') sits the Hi Mountain Lookout, a retired USFS fire lookout, now a field-research and remote tracking station used to monitor the endangered California Condor. The Lookout is not much to look at but the views certainly are.

The view south

Lopez Lake

Panoramic north view


No, we didn't see any California condors. But, hey, we didn't see very many people either - count 'em, seven - and it was a spectacular day for a drive.

The little Goatmobile that could.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Good Luck Gardening

"Life, uh, finds a way." Dr. Ian Malcolm  (Jurassic Park)

When we lived in Hawaii we grew an avocado tree from a pit. You know: poke the seed with toothpicks, stick it in a cup of water, get it to root, and plant it in the ground. The tree grew to about 6 feet tall. It took about five years for our home-grown tree to fruit tiny little avocados. Then we tried to help the plant along by adding mulch. We were remodeling our house so we added fresh sweet sawdust.

First, the little fruit stopped growing, shriveled, and dropped to the ground. Then the branches withered and turned black. We watered more. The avocado tree stood there in the middle of the yard for months while we patiently watered and waited for it to produce more fruit. Then one day the two dogs ran into the tree, knocked it over, and carried it away. It was a stick, a dead stick.

I'm not sure when it dawned on us that we had killed the tree. Possibly, only when the dogs were happily chewing it into splinters. Unfortunately, the sprinkled sawdust was from HI-bor wood, pressure-treated borate lumber used for resistance against termites and fungal decay in Hawaii, good for a home remodel, not so good for an avocado tree. Poison.

Surprise: The lovely purple lisianthus survived our two weeks of winter cold and buds are already appearing on the little cared for plant.

Last Summer 7/13/14

Surprise: We have a daffodil in bloom. It's a first appearance for the happy yellow flower.

This week we welcomed two bare root apple trees to our home. The still dormant sticks will produce Fuji and Gala apples in three years. If they're lucky.

Our plants certainly seem to do better if we don't help them along. Our best policy for gardening may be to keep ourselves at a fair distance and let the plants thrive on their own.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Feeling Lucky

". . . you've got to ask yourself a question. 'Do I feel lucky?' Well, do you, punk?" Dirty Harry

I've heard that there are two groups of people in the world: those that have had salmonella and the other group who have not. My Mom, unfortunately, has been in the first group and is ever cautious about not repeating the experience again.

So. Why would I tempt fate and make home-made mayonnaise which is made from raw eggs?

I could say I have healthy, happy, free-ranging chickens that spend their entire day wandering wherever they please (true). I could say the chickens eat fresh kitchen scraps that have been washed with utmost care (true). I could say a fair amount of the kitchen scraps are organic and all are from our weekly CSA produce box (true). I could say they lay their eggs in a nesting box that gets cleaned daily (true).

And although all the statements above are true the real reason I made my own mayonnaise is because I haven't gone to Costco in quite a while and have run out of the mega-jar of Best Foods Mayonnaise (Hellmann's brand east of the Rockies).

A friend, food blogger Carol, had written a post about making mayonnaise awhile back and I was curious to give it a try.

To start off I went down to the coop and gathered a still warm pinkish egg (either Tandy or Brandy's) from the nesting box. I googled a few recipes and chose the one I had the ingredients for. I didn't want to wash appliances so I used the hand whisk. Big mistake. I got tired of whisking after adding only 1/3 cup of Canola oil and still had another full cup to go. Another near miss mistake, I added 1 tablespoon of fresh squeezed lemon juice before I noticed the recipe called for 4 teaspoons. Had to check my measurement table: 1 tbsp = 3 tsp. Yay, I added another teaspoon.

The Mayo firmed up and emulsified nicely. It was sunny yellow from the bright happy egg yolk. I tasted it. A little tangy from the lemon but the texture was rich and creamy. I gave The Man a taste, his face puckered up, "Wow". Okay, maybe a little less lemon juice next time.

Not sure if I'll make it again. It didn't knock my socks off. I didn't care for the taste - maybe it was the Dijon mustard or too much lemon. If I do make it again it'll be just for The Man and me. I don't think I'll share, because, you know, just in case.