How the heck do you climb a creek anyways? Weeeeeeeeelllllllll, I guess I'll just have to tell you.
But first, a pubic (public) service announcement from yours truly (no, you don't get roses... there'll all mine, damnit) going out to all of my loyal readers --I think there are four of you now, WEE-HOO!
Ah, right, the PSA: Do not under any circumsizes (circumstances) expect any of dave's stories to be in any sort of chronological order. However, you do have the right to expect them all to be true --that's cus they ARE true. Also, the names have not been changed to protect the guilty, cus, you know, like, they are guilty.
OT Do you like my gratuitous use of commas?
Oh, another Pubic Service Announcement: this post could get long. If you are reading it at work (shudder) then that's just too bad for you, I hope you are on your break.
If anyone cares, this weeks cress is ready for cropping, my coriander (cilantro) thicket is coming along nicely, the lettuce looks great, and I've just used a WMD on the damn caterpillars on my herbs. Don't worry, the WMD is a naturally occuring bacteria that doesn't harm any other insect (spiders are my friends) or bird or mammal or lizard (the blue-tongues in the garage eat all the cockroaches). I will protect my mint, my russian tarragon, my chocolate mint, my thyme, my catmint, my sage, my oregano, my basil, my mexican tarragon, my parsley, my purple sage, my mushrooms, my lettuce, and my marjoram from the damn things. Fortunately they leave the garlic alone. Nothing touches the rosemary (except for my shears, the damn things will colonise the garden given half a chance).
The snails haven't tried to have a go at the chinese lantern plant this season, I think it's getting too big for them. They've also given up on my outdoor chrysanthenum and it's about to do its first bloom of the season. I totally kicked major butt of the aphids on the roses last year, so they haven't even tried it this year. I have nice roses. Nothing eats the palms, and the hydrangeas I started as cuttings two years ago are going great. I've moved the mushroom farms into the garage, NO snails will ever get another of my shrooms, damnit!
I'm letting the english and french lavender run riot this summer, there's about five of each out front. There's an odd bush out front that I can't identify, but it smells much like licorice/aniseed (if that makes any sense). I smell so good that after I finish pruning it I want to pretend I'm like the cat and lick myself. Ok, grossness over... for now...
Alrighty mates, story time with unkie dave! Todays episode is Creek Climbing.
Going waaaaay back in thyme, I believe I was 7 or 8. Had to be cus it was between me leaving my face on the pavement but before my first broken arm and way after my first broken leg (still gotta tell you about that). I still had both eyes back then (ok, that was a fib... I have neither eye now).
The family (me, doug (older brother by 14 months), old fart (dad), and mom) were invited to spend the weekend on a friends powerboat in Whittier. Note: this was back when you could only get to Whittier by train. Note Note: you can still see all of Whittier in 5 minutes at a slow walk.
We agreed! We'd never been on a boat that size (later learned it was only a 25 footer...) and it seemed like the Queen Mary. The forecast for the weekend was good --in Alaska that means the raindrops will be smaller than bucket-sized, the wind won't get above 40 mph, no hail, and no snow.
I vaguely remember the trip to get to Whittier so I won't bore you with made-up crap. Neither do I remember Whittier (does anyone??????).
Here's what I remember: heading out of the bay on the boat, the salt spray everywhere, getting yelled at to get off the deck or I'll fall (this was before life preservers were invented and those weird orange vests everyone else was wearing just looked dorky). Ah yes, first time on the ocean... VERY VERY VERY COOL!
Shotgun cove disappeared in the distance and we rounded the headlands... the Waves Got Huge. They were Towering Black Monsters waiting to thrash any boat with the temerity to venture forth into the vast unknown ocean. I later learned they were only four footers and it was only blowing 20 knots... oh the shame...
The waters calmed when we turned left into Pigot Bay. Cool place. It was me first and only time there but I do remember it well (at least the important part, you know, creek climbing). The boat was anchored (I didn't help) and the grups unwound for a bit. Since Doug (my older brother by 14 months) and I had done pretty much nothing for the last hour, we were getting, shall we say, rather restless. Wee-Hoo, the Old Fart (dad) to the rescue.
The Old Fart suggested (he threw our rambunctious asses into the dinghy) that we go ashore and expore the beach. I need to put in an aside here for you folks in the lower 48: Don't think of sandy, warm beaches! Think of gravel, kelp, rocks, driftwood, and forest to the tidemark. Oh, did I mention in was around 35 F, which was just slightly warmer than the ocean or any of the creeks feeding into the ocean? I didn't? Well I have now.
So we "beached" the dinghy and put it up above the tidemark and went exploring. We quickly found a trail. The trail went along the bank of a creek. Creeks in AK are not your typical, idyllic, meandering brooks you might see in the picture books. Real Creeks carve unknown paths through the forest, thunder down cliffs, and yank trees out by their roots. This particular creek made those ones look tame.
The trail started to narrow as the creek climbed the mountain. Several times the trail crossed the creek and we followed... we got wet... we got seriously fucking wet... a few times the Old Fart had to haul each one of us across while he stood in the creek cus the swirling whirlpool we had to cross was over our heads (thanks dad! I won't put you in a nursing home). Sometimes we were able to scramble across the logs that straddled the creek.
It was only later we learned the trail wasn't really a trail, but more of a bear track.
Never saw a bear but boy did he/she start leaving some serious sign. The Old Fart figured (rightly) that as long as we continue to make as much noise as possible (Doug and I were always good at making LOTS of noise) we'll never see a bear. He was right, but we did see lots more bear sign.
"What's bear sign?" you ask. Plainly stated: bear shit. The warmer it is the closer the bear is (I'll leave the temp determining to your fertile imagination). Oh, 12 inch diameter paw prints sorta kinda helped us figure out that it was a bear track.
On up the creek we went... The bear trail soon disappeared off one side (smart bear) and we slogged through the downed tree trunks, the swirling waterpools, the sharp rocks and the dank forest on our own. We went STRAIGHT UP THE CREEK for a while cus there wasn't even a passable bank on either side.
Eventually, the Old Fart must have felt pity on his two little offspring as he suggested we head back down the creek. WEEEE what fun! It was so much easier! Slipping over the slick rocks, sliding over and under the mossy tree trunks! What fun! Avoiding the bear scat! Screaming our fool heads off as we plummeted down the *fucking cold* creek! Oh the joy! Disney could've made a fortune by making this into a theme park ride --dunno how they'd get the bear sign in though.
By some grace of my guardian angel (more about that later... much later) we arrived back at the "beach" intact and everything attached. There wasn't a single dry spot on any of the three of us, but we didn't care. We had FUN!
Arriving back at the anchored boat (they waited, YEA!) my mom took a look at the three of us and freaked. Three blue-lipped, bedraggled, shivering, quivering, COLD, masses of human flesh must have shook her sensibilities a wee bit. Oh we were babied! Dry clothes, blankets, hot chocolate (the Old Fart got schnapps in his, bastard), all in front of the heater in the main cabin. Oh, and FOOD. Lots and lots of WARM FOOD.
Our little toes were shriveled-up blue ice cubes, we had bruises everywhere (and I mean everywhere). Well past the stage of goose-bumps we were... And yet, there was a strange, odd, unholy, light in my eyes... DAMN DID I HAVE FUN!
Over the next few years, whenever we were anchored out in a cove (we got our own boat (it had sails) --but that's another story) I would bring up the suggestion of creek climbing. Mom (bless her heart) would usually rescue me after a few minutes of the Old Fart holding me down while Doug tried to beat some sense into me.
Was this the Beginning with my warped love of the cold and the Outdoors? Or was it just the first physical manifestation of a deeper problem? Time will tell so stay tuned!
Onto one of my favourite (favorite) things: Food
Yeah, yeah, yeah... I know, another damned soup recipe. I mean come on dave, we all know how to make soup from scratch. One can 'o' campbells and one can opener! No worries!
Well for those of you who feel like trying the soup I made yesterday, you may read on. For the rest of you... too bad cus you are missing out.
Here's what you kneed for dave's special homemade hamhock soup:
One cured hamhock
lots of water
mix of beans (any assortment of dried beans works great)
one diced potato
1 tbspn sea salt
1/4 tspn white pepper
one chopped onion
1 tspn dried basil
1 tspn dried oregano
1 tspn dried tarragon
What you due:
Plonck the hamhock into a big pot, and fill with H2O. Simmer for 2-3 hours, keeping the water topped up. Remove from heat and remove the hamhock and let it cool on a cutting board. You'll find the fat and skin pretty much falls off the bone. Take the meat and shred it using your fingers. Half the shredded ham will be for the soup, the other half will be for pork and beans the next day. You can toss the bone, or give it to the dog.
Skim the fat off the ham soup stock. To the skimmed ham stock add the mix of dried beans, lentils and peas. Simmer for an hour. Add the diced potato, sea salt, white pepper, chopped onion, and the three herbs. Simmer for another 30 minutes. Add half the shredded ham from the hamhock for the last 5 minutes.
Serve hot with fresh homemade wholemeal bread.
This is very very very very tasty!