Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Fire Rages On

The "Chips" fire from our front window
And on another day.....
The Chips Fire began in the Feather River Canyon NW of Quincy on Sunday, July 29th. When fire personnel arrived on the scene, the fire was 15 acres in size. The fire has now burned over 50,000 acres and it is still burning. Check out a NASA satellite photo of it here. When I worked for the Forest Service at Lake Tahoe, I saw the Fire Management Officer (FMO) pull out all the stops when a fire started in the Lake Tahoe Basin. Those first hours of a fire a crucial and this man was fearless in his conviction. In a world-renown tourist destination full of million dollar homes, a large scale wildfire is unthinkable. In South Lake Tahoe in 2007, the 3100 acre Angora Fire destroyed 242 residences and 67 commercial structures, and damaged 35 other homes. It was among the top half-dozen most costly fires in the U.S.

Now that the Chips Fire has grown so large and cost so much in dollars and habitat destruction, etc., it is tempting to be critical of the early management of the fire but in all fairness, conditions were not on the side of the fire fighters. We had a light winter and the fuels out there were dry to begin with. Add to that high temperatures, steep terrain, extremely low humidity, and afternoon winds and you've got yourself a problem.

The communities to the north of us have bore the brunt of the smoke but we have had our share as well. There are good days and bad days depending on the winds. On the bad days ash rains down, the sun is cranberry colored, and we keep all the windows closed to avoid breathing the thick, particulate-filled air. It can be rather surreal and oppressive. On good (for us) days the smoke stays to the north as seen in the photos above and we are in the clear.

On clear days, I hike when I can. Here is a photo of the fire from the top of Spanish Peak off the PCT:
Another day the smoke moved in during my hike up and when I got to Spanish Peak, I was in a white fog of smoke with hardly any visibility.
A clear day at Gold Lake
Seaweed snack
So life goes on, despite the fire. Our stream of house guests has come to an end for the time being. Below is an image from our last set of friends' visit. A truly summer scene.
Sandals left by the back door in between trips to the creek and strolls to town
And this last image from our back patio of mead and wild blackberries, geraniums and a new yard sale table in use. Speaking of blackberries, they are coming on strong here now; earlier than in most years. Leo and I go blackberry picking every other day or so. Sweetness......
Enjoy and if you have clean air, take a deep breath and be thankful!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Two Yummy Salads

I have two different salad recipes to share today. The first is a sweet and greasy German potato salad recipe passed down from my grandma. My dad used to make it when I was a kid. Something made me think of it recently and I called him for the recipe. He said he would get back to me. He had to dig and riffle for it. When he called back he expressed delight at what he encountered in the process of the hunt. Handwritten recipes on cards through the generations. Recipes written by me as a small child. Recipes my father carefully recorded after a particular success in the kitchen but maybe never replicated again. Difficult to read recipes scrawled in wavery cursive by aging grandmothers. Ahhhh, good stuff indeed. Among them all, it was there: German Potato Salad from Lydia's Kitchen.

We have harvested the small new potatoes from our potato container twice so far. There is nothing like the treasure hunt of digging for potatoes. Ours were red gems in the brown dirt. I used a mix of the new red potatoes with a few yukon golds I found in the fridge. The recipe called for sliced hard-boiled eggs on top. Because our eggs had just been delivered and were too fresh to successfully hard-boil, I fried a few over-easy in a bit of the left-over bacon grease and topped the salad with those. I modified the dressing slightly to accommodate the gluten-free me and voila. It was like I remembered it and a hit with our guests.
Look at that yummy greasy mess! Mmmmmm.....
Sweet and Greasy German Potato Salad
Ingredient List:
1 large red onion finely chopped
1/2 pound of good bacon
3 or so lbs of small to medium potatoes
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/3 cup sugar
1 T. cornstarch
3 eggs
Boil, peel, and slice the potatoes. Fry bacon until it is crisp. Save the grease. Boil gently 1 cup of water, the vinegar, and the sugar. Mix the cornstarch in 1 T. water and add to simmering dressing. Stir for a minute until you see it begin to thicken. Add 3 or 4 T. of the bacon grease to the dressing. Let thicken for a couple more minutes while stirring.
Pour the dressing over the potato slices in a serving dish. Top with chopped onions and crumbled or chopped bacon pieces. Fry eggs over-easy. Place on top of salad and break yolks. Serve warm. Serves 6-8 as a side dish.

The second salad I encountered at a Mexican-themed birthday party I attended a couple weeks ago. It is a simple slaw with colors that say, "Eat me and thrive!". The whole dinner was like that actually. If I'd had my camera, you can bet I would have taken pictures. The hostess worked at a cafe in Chico, Ca in her college days and they served a salad similar to this. She's been making it ever since. It goes something like this:
Colorful Mexican Style Slaw
1 small purple cabbage
4 carrots
1/4 cup chopped parseley
Shred the cabbage and carrots in a food processor. Place in a large bowl and stir in chopped parsley.
1/4 cup canola oil
1 T. olive oil
1 T. apple cider vinegar
1 T. rice vinegar
(Note: fresh squeezed lime juice would be a good substitution here for either or both of the vinegars)
3/4 t. ground cumin
3/4 t. ancho chili powder
1/2 t. salt
Optional: 1 small clove pressed garlic
Pour over salad and stir to combine.

Eat your colors and enjoy!