Saturday, August 20, 2011

In which "World War Z" is NOT an apocolypse led by the zombies

It occurs to me that not everyone knows and appreciates the significance of zucchini.
Yesterday's harvest
 Here's stuff to know about zucchini: 
  • The Swamplandish climate is ideal for the growing of zucchini
  • Each zucchini seed packet contains about 15 seeds
  • 15 zucchini plants, planted in our ideal Swamplandish climate, will produce in an average season enough squash to feed the entired United States Armed Forces.  For about 4 years.
Today's harvest.  Note that each squash is approximately 12" long.
Here's another thing about zucchini:  everybody plants it.

In fact, almost everybody plants all 15 seeds.  Which means that, every August, each and every household in the entire Swampland produces enough zucchini to feed the entire US Armed Forces (at home and abroad). 

The mathematicians among us have already figured out the problem:
Too many zukes.
What can be done with all this squash?

A normal family cannot possibly eat them all when they come ripe.  There is a limit to the amount of freezer room that anybody wants to designate for "shredded squash."  And all the neighbors are growing it, so the "gift" of zucchini is akin to the "gift" of bubonic plague.

Part of the problem is the cultural baggage associated with growing zucchini.  A person who "can't grow zucchini" is not just a lousy gardener; it's sort of a polite way to say that the person is a complete waste of carbon.  Nobody wants that label.  So everyone grows zucchini.
Stealth zucchini. 
Green zukes are much harder to detect than their yellow brethren, and therefore
 can easily grow to the size of preschoolers before they are noticed and harvested.
 The result:  zucchini bombings.

It is culturally accepted here that, if somebody is innocent dumb enough to leave their vehicle unlocked in a public place, that person fully deserves to find a bushel of squash on the front seat.  Every single day.

Unguarded front porches are similarly vulnerable to z-bombings. 
Jim displays a mutant zuke. Do not encourage these to propogate!
Truly desperate gardeners, overwhelmed by zukes, have been known to enter the homes of neighbors who trustingly leave their keys so that folks can feed the cat, and stash zucchini in the fridge.

People like my brother, a veteran of Zuke Bombings (from his sister?  ya think?) double-lock the doors and hide under the furniture until First Frost. 
Nobody leaves a squash in this truck while the Floofs are on duty!
 My solution:  the Zucchini Defense Squad (ZDS).  Pickles is new to the duty of keeping squash bombers away, but she is learning the skills quickly from veteran Defenders Mimsy and Luna.
The only good zuke is a ....  

Here's a recipe that might help.

Chocolate-Orange-Zucchini Brownies

1 cup agave nectar
1/4 cup canola oil
3/4 cup applesauce
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup yogurt
2 cups (or more) grated zucchini
2 cups flour
1 cup cocoa
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon allspice (optional)
1.5 teaspoon cinnamon
orange peel to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Lightly grease brownie pan. 
In medium bowl, mix together agave, oil, eggs, vanilla, yogurt, zuke.
In a separate large bowl, mix together all of the dry ingredients.  Add the liquid ingredients and mix until well-combined.  Spoon batter into muffin pan (extra batter can go into muffin tins). 
Bake for 35 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
The resulting brownies are not unwelcome at church gatherings and office parties. 
Except in August.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

In which I muse about riding partners, and how to find a good one

I am lucky right now:  I have some of the best riding partners in the world.
Patty and Shade, Sirie and Arianna
 Somebody asked me recently:  "What makes a riding partner a good riding partner?"

Madeline and Hana
I haven't always had good riding partners (and I'll only post photos of the good ones here).  My buddy Megan says that relationships are like waffles--everybody always burns the first 2 or 3.  She was talking about love/marriage relationships at the time, but I think the "waffle theory" applies to riding partner relationships also.

Let me tell you what I've learned about finding a good riding partner:
Duana and Hana, Connie and Farah, Patty and Shade, Sirie and Arianna
A good riding partner is happy to see you.  Even in the rain, even when s/he has had a crummy day so far, even when YOU have had a crummy day.  A good riding partner knows that a good ride will make everything better.

A good riding partner knows when to take a break for a few minutes
picking black-cap berries along the trail
Berry picking (above) is a good reason to stop.  So are "sightings of Elvis" (below)...
an "elvis-sighting"
 ...which occur when a rider shouts, "I see Elvis--look, over there!" and the rest of the group politely looks the other direction while the shouter hops off into the bushes to pee.  (A good riding partner has approximately the same time/distance between pee stops as you.  That way, one person isn't always waiting for the other person). 
 A good riding partner gets along with your friends, and makes them feel welcome when you bring somebody new.  You'd be amazed how uncommon that can be--and how wonderful it is, when it happens.

A good riding partner doesn't mind making photo-stops along the way--and takes pictures of YOU and YOUR horse sometimes, too.

Sky and Cricket in the vet-line at Foothills of the Cascade, 2010

Photo of Fiddle and me, taken by Patty
 A good riding partner knows that hopping off the horse to relax a while is sometimes a better idea than staying on the horse and practicing the go-go-go thing all the time.
Sky and Cricket, relaxing in a meadow
A good riding partner recognizes the value of riding lessons, and will help you work on your horse's training issues while you help work with his or her horse's issues....
Jim and Hana at a riding lesson
...and is also willing to leave the arena behind, and go with you to see "what's on the other side of this hill."
Jim and Hana on the trail at Renegade Rendezvous
 A good riding partner is somebody that you enjoy talking with AFTER you've ridden 50 miles or more together.
Jim, Aarene, and Paul, in camp at Elbe Endurance Ride
  A good riding partner is somebody who smiles at you.

A good riding partner is somebody who thinks you are a good riding partner!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

In which Pickles Marie and I kill some time by walking around town

Pickles is doing pretty well after a little more than a week at Haiku Farm.  

When she arrived at the shelter, she was covered in fleas, full of worms, lacking a bunch of hair, and desperately in need of an ovariectomy (spay).  PAWS took care of all that stuff, and then gave her to us at about half the cost of all those treatments.  Wow.

However, while recovering all of her former owners' neglect, and in the stressful environment of the shelter, Pickles picked up a crummy case of bordetella (kennel cough) and has been horking and snorfing for several days now.  While not a serious disease, kennel cough is highly contagious...and since she didn't show symptoms at first, we didn't isolate the floofy dogs when Pickles entered the house.   We expect to have a house full of phlegm very soon, sigh.

Still, life goes on.  Today, the truck needed brakes, and the trailer needed tires rotated.  Down I went to one of my favorite vendors:  Les Schwab Tires.
 I know it's unusual for a girl to have a favorite tire store.  I know that.  But if you knew how often Les Schwab has fixed stuff on my rig--often at no charge--you would understand.  They don't give me special treatment.  They treat ALL of their customers that way.  Other tire stores might be cheaper, but I have learned that in the long run, I will save money by using LS.   Our family refers to the free roadmaps that LS stores give away (with LS locations marked on it, of course) as the "map of the civilized world." 

Across the street from the Les Schwab store in our town is an access point to the Centennial Trail, so Pickles and I went for a walk while we waited for the guys to do their magic to the rig.   

 The trail through Arlington features public art.
 I adore public art!  (close up of the stones--above).

We walked the labyrinth.  Well, I walked it.  Pickles scampered all over it.
 We explored Legion Park, and read the old inscriptions for the Service Men's Memorial, now more properly referred to as the Veterans' Memorial.
 I love this sculpture (below)
 It marks a time capsule, and commemorates part of our local history:  dairy farming.
 Also, it's beautiful.  See the fancy glasswork detail (above).

Salmon are also a heritage industry in our town, and it's hard to escape "fish art" around here.
 From the casual (above)
to the truly stunning (below)

to the outrageously wonderful (below)
(taken at the Festival of the River yesterday afternoon--that's Lisa in the salmon's mouth!).

More fabulous artwork that my dog and I saw as we wandered:

 (back side of a deli)
 (detail of the mural, below)

 Pickles and I walked a couple of miles, slowly, enjoying the sights.
 The (appropriately-tinted) purple "Whitehorse Trail (unfinished)" on the map will eventually run very close to Haiku Farm.  Hooray!  
 The old railroad bridge spanning the North and South fork junction of the Stilliguamish River has recently been re-decked for pedestrians. 
 view from the bridge (above)
 There's a little detour north of the bridge.  Hmmm.   We followed the "horse" trail into the shady woods.
 What's this?  Fallen maple leaves?   NOOOOOOooooOOOOOOO!
 We can't be getting ready for autumn yet!  The blackberries (below) aren't ripe yet!

Pickles enjoyed her walk on the trail.   

 Then we returned to the little park by the tire store, and had a little picnic. We used Fiddle's rump-rug for a picnic blanket (since they finished with the trailer early, but the truck was on the big elevator getting a brake job) and we relaxed in the shade until the rig was finished.

Life. Is. Good.