Hiking above the clouds

So here we are, October, which for Pac Northwesterners it means truly the first day of fall. And yesterday was a beautiful, sunny day for our final day of our PNW summer.

A couple of friends from Dallas were visiting, and with the sun shining I was hoping we’d get good views of the Olympic Mountains from the Bluff Trail at Ft. Ebey State Park. Upon arrival at the trail head, it was obvious no views were to be had as a crazy thick fog seemed to be covering most of the Sound.

img_4097As we climbed along the bluff and up to Ft. Ebey, the sun was beaming brightly and it appeared we were just above the clouds at one point. The last time I had seen something like this was when Josh and I drove into the Andes to the Chilean border.

Yes, it was a perfect final PNW summer day.



Veggies, turkeys and a tiny bit of conflict

img_4057A couple of months back I already shared that CSA Day was my favorite day of the week but the reality is that fall is here and tomorrow is the official last day of summer here in the Pacific Northwest. October arrives and we are told to expect wet and cloudy weather from here on out until the spring, so I’m savoring every veggie pick up day and every farmers market.

This week we cam home with some lemon squash which I’m excited about tasting. The size of the squash available this week was massive, but I’m not a believer that bigger is always better, so I stuck with the more manageable small guys. With that said, walking into the barn and seeing the monster squash does make me pretty excited.

We lingered a little bit on the farm this time around. Picking beautiful purple Dahlia’s and Swiss chard for our u-pick items and then marking our pumpkin which we will pick up on the last day of the CSA….but we won’t talk about that right now.

The turkeys on the farm are getting bigger. We sat and watched them run back and forth discussing with Jess, one of the girls who works the farm, how they’ve fared with their chickens and turkeys this year. We’ve already put down our deposit on one of those birds who will find itself on our table for Thanksgiving. I enjoy knowing where my food is coming from, but I have to admit that I feel a tiny bit guilty being entertained by these feathery, quirky creatures and knowing that one of them is going to be dinner.

img_4061With that said, this is part of the reality. While these are cute creatures, they are food. This is the circle of life, especially on a farm. Living in the city, I did realize that the meat I was buying was once a live, thriving animal. I tell my vegetarian friends that while I’m going to eat meat, it is important to me that my meat was happy, running around in the sun during the duration of its life. But now, I see the chicken, turkey, cow or pig that may end up as part of a meal on my plate and as an animal lover, that can be conflicting sometimes.

I’m planning on raising our own chickens for eggs by next spring, and while I’m not raising them for meat, there will come a time when those chickens don’t lay eggs anymore and I’ll have to decide if my egg endeavor is a hobby farm operation or are those girls going to eventually be additional pets for the Peters pack.

Going to the farm each week is therapeutic for me for many reasons. It gets me out of my office at the beginning of the week, we get to meet fellow CSA shareholders and it’s probably going to prepare me for having a few farm animals of our own.



It’s a dog (beach) life

I didn’t get my ocean view, but I do get to find the ocean and that can mean heading with Moonpie and the Lady Labs to Double Bluff Dog Beach.

The ocean has always been special to me, but add our pups to the scene and it is pure joy. Watching the girls run up and down the beach at full blast makes us laugh every time.

The one member of the pack that surprises us the most on our trips to Double Bluff is Moonpie. img_3481When we left Texas, Moonpie had been suffering from arthritis and seemed to not be into life at all. She’s our oldest dog at 13, but she may be our favorite (sshhhh….don’t tell the Lady Labs).

Since moving here, Moonpie has seemed to come into her second wind. She’s spunky, demands treats and she heards the Lady Labs all around the back yard. She loves running the trails at the Greenbank dog park and here on the beach.

Life is good if you are a Moonpie. And why wouldn’t it, when you have beach, salty Sound waters of the Salish Sea and mountains beckoning you to run.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Falling in love with sheep cheese

The Whidbey Island Chapter for Slow Food offers a variety of activities from jam workshops, to farm tours and potluck dinners. Since we are a foodie at heart in love with eating slow food, it seemed like a good fit and a way to meet like minded people.

My favorite Slow Food Whidbey event so far is the tour of Glendale Shepherd Farm. I had seen the folks at Glendale Shepherd at the Bayview Farmer’s Market and even purchased some of their cheese, but the tour, which included a wine and cheese tasting made me a sheep cheese fan girl. Walking their farm up and down toward the high cliff coastline looking over to the mainland was beautiful. Their 60 milking sheep have space to roam and graze on land with fantastic water views. Happy sheep make for happy cheese is what I learned.

While the Island Brebis is the cheese that has given them a claim to fame winning awards in the past, but the Tallulah is my favorite.  Tallulah is a mild cheese with a creamy center and on the outside boasts a nutty rind.

There was mention that the sheep were soon coming to the end of their milking time, which means Tallulah is coming to the end of the season. I will definitely be heading to the Bayview Farmer’s Market each Saturday to make sure I have the opportunity for another taste.

In just a couple of months, winter will arrive and the markets will close until May. It seems so far away, the end of October, but I know it will be here before we know it. And then, all my favorite things will be gone until spring.



Blackberries are here and so is the jam

img_3713This morning I woke up and picked four quarts of wild blackberries growing in our front yard. They’ve just started coming ripe enough to pick and after my jam making class with Slow Food Whidbey Island, I thought I’d give my first batch a try.

It was pretty labor intensive the first time around, more so for the clean up because my damn glasstop stove is such a pain in the ass to clean. I really, really miss my gas stove, but that is another story for another day.

While I’ve hopped off the no sugar/no bread wagon since moving to the islanimg_3378d, I was amazed at how much sugar one batch of jam takes. I know there are recipes with less sugar, but I thought I’d start with the basics and then experiment once I got the process down. For this batch, I decided to strain out the seeds for half of the berry puree. I wanted seeds for texture and for show, but I wanted the sweetness of the blackberries to come through.

My first batch was successful enough. All the jars sealed and the jam set up as expected. I couldn’t wait to taste it for breakfast the next morning.

One day I’m going to have to get back on my no sugar/no bread wagon, but not today.



The anniversary dinner

Six years ago, followed by friends and family, my husband and I came to the island to get married. Most Texans don’t choose Puget Sound for a destination wedding, but we did.

A few days before our guests arrived, we met Josh’s parents at The Oystercatcher for dinner in Coupeville. This weekend, we returned to celebrate our anniversary and pinch ourselves that we now live here.

I’m not going to compose prose to tell you about our meal. I’m just going to leave this nice little gallery of images for you to peruse. I just hope you aren’t hungry.

The recycling dilemma

We’ve been on the island for almost two months now and haven’t taken one thing to one of the four recycling centers on the island. It’s embarrassing, and frankly it had become a problem in our garage. Is this box something that needs to be unpacked? Nope, just recycling waiting to find its home.

Recycling in the city is pretty simple. Paper, plastic, newspaper, aluminum…all of it…just put it into the big blue bin and roll it out with the trash bin on trash day. Here on the island, not so.

A week after our arrival, I searched for the nearest recycling location and reviewed the rules: sort glass bottles by color, separate cardboard and flatten, rinse all cans and bottles, remove paper from tin cans and flatten….by all means separate everything. This tended to give me a little anxiety about doing this all right.

Flatten the tin cans? I stared at the two bags of cans, mostly dog food cans and made attempts to flatten them with a hammer, with my foot…nope, not going to happen. From there I went to Ace Hardware in search for a sledge hammer. Standing in the tool section staring at the 10 different sledge hammers available, I must have looked stressed or perhaps it was because I’d been standing there for 30 minutes, but I was offered help.

“It’s this recycling thing. I have to flatten the cans? It says here, I have to flatten these cans. How do I do this? I’m thinking a sledge hammer, but surely there is an easier way.”

img_3242The sales associate looked humored or possibly just thought I was crazy. She let me know that I didn’t need to flatten cans as the website instructed and she was sorry that I didn’t need a sledgehammer today after all.

So I went back to the house, sorted my recyclables, loaded up my car and found my way down to Island Recycling in Freeland. I had imagined large industrial bins, but instead found a collage of recycled goods turned into art. This eased my recycle anxiety a bit.

As I began to unload my car, I received a couple of strange looks. Yes, this is my first time doing this recycling thing in the country. Yes, I’m from the city. Yes, I may need help. They guided me through the process, reminding me that lids in no way go on the plastic bottles, as if I needed a reminder because there were signs posted all around me.

An hour later, my recycling had been placed in all the appropriate bins, without lids and paper wrappers and I didn’t even have to crush those pesky cans.





Bellingham for the weekend

In celebration of my best friend’s 40th birthday, we headed off north to Bellingham. I call this our “almost home” because this is where I really thought we would end up. In addition to my bestie living here, it’s a college town, it has music and culture, beautiful Bellingham Bay in the front and Mt. Baker keeping a watchful eye in the background.

We did have a beautiful sunset tour of Bellingham Bay, but honestly, for the weekend, friends gathered at a house close to a city park to eat, drink and be merry.

One day we stopped at Taylor’s Shellfish situated along the winding Chuckanut Drive and purchased about 5 lbs. of oysters for grilling and mussels for steaming. Thankfully, Josh and Dave provided their shucking and grilling skills. It was the perfect end to a delicious, beautiful weekend.

Slow food, easy food, good food

We’ve always prided ourselves as being foodies and living in Dallas allowed us to try a new restaurant each week as long as we could afford it (which usually, we couldn’t). We gravitated toward those restaurants touting local cuisine and we tried to buy local vegetables and meat. Food Inc. steered us away from the average grocery store and unless we could find something at our local farmers market, our grocery store was Whole Foods.

Going to the grocery store in Dallas was a Sunday event. Go have a glass of wine, meet neighborhood friends, discuss the menu for the week and the ingredients on the grocery list and then eventually shop for said ingredients. Our weekly trip to the grocery store took 3-4 hours which we really enjoyed.

About three months before our move, there was too much to do and we were trying to tighten our budget, so much to my husbands request to keep our Sunday shopping tradition alive, I caved to the food in a box. Plated, while not fitting the slow food framework, did allow us to have a weeks worth of dinners shipped each Tuesday and at the same price. It freed up our Sunday to pack, visit with friends and neighbors, or get ready for a work travel filled week. After getting adjusted to our surroundings, we paused our Plated shipments and focused back onto our local foodie passions.

Here on the island, being a foodie has a whole new meaning than what we experienced in Dallas. Don’t get me wrong, there are delicious restaurants here like Oystercatcher, Prima, and The Inn at Langley, but being a foodie here means local, buying local, eating local.

We started our slow food quest by joining the CSA at Prairie Bottom Farms and enjoy our weekly partial share of vegetables we pick up each week. We quickly learned that our neighbor was not only a farmer, but a baker. He supplies pork and fresh bread to the Oystercatcher and takes orders on the side to sell pork to the community. We purchased half of a pig and it arrived earlier this week. img_3226

Pork raised next door. How local can you get?

Last night we served up pork chops along with braised beets and zucchini and a green salad. All veggies came from our CSA with the exception of the tomatoes seen here as those won’t arrive until mid-September.

It felt good to eat a meal where we knew how the ingredients were grown or raised. Slow food is definitely tasty food.



Foraging the sea for food

One of the pulls to moving by the sea for Josh was fishing. As we wait for salmon season to open, we’ve been playing around with the crab trap. Honestly, as great as this Dungeness Crab looks, so far we haven’t had much luck.

We learned that without a boat, crabbing becomes challenging. Without a boat, you are left to try your luck at perhaps one of three docks and if you aren’t willing to hang out with the trap all day, there is a high likelihood that someone will nab your crab, if not your whole trap.

But today when Josh retrieved his trap from the Clinton pier, he found success. After throwing back the females and the rock crab that were too small, two tasty Dungeness crab remained. They became lunch. A very tasty lunch.

This wasn’t our first foraging experience. A few weeks back, we tried our hand at clamming off of Zylstra beach off Penn Cove. It was Father’s Day and was packed with people from the mainland.

Clamming on Penn Cove.

Unlike crabbing, scavenging across the beach was a little overwhelming. There were choices. Did we want to hang out for 30 minutes and forage for Penn Cove mussels or search for clam breathing holes and dig until we found them. We chose the latter, primarily because these wild mussels looked much more difficult to clean than simply removing the beards off of the store bought variety.

Clamming is serious business and the Fish and Wildlife Rangers don’t mess around. We thought we were prepared with license in hand, a clam bag for each of us (so we can keep accurate count), but we were busted when the ranger noticed we didn’t have a measuring tool. I explained how I was measuring the clam by using my pinky finger, buimg_2847t that apparently isn’t acceptable. We only had one clam that was a fraction too small, so she was kind and let us go with a warning.

We focused on foraging for the large butter clams because they would keep us out of trouble until we had a proper ruler. As we began to prepare dinner, we realized seeking the butter clams may not have been the best plan. They are rather large and meaty, but not as tasty as the smaller cockles or little neck clams.

At the end of the day, our meal wasn’t horrible, but we chalked it up to a tasty learning experience.