Mechanized Movement

Scale is something I always love thinking about around Leafhopper Farm; the size of my flock, how many square feet of garden I can irrigate off the well without going dry in late summer, or scoops of grain left before a trip to the grange should happen to re-supply. When I look at projects- especially earth works- scale determines so much when we’re dealing with big machines. In past writing, I have talked some about my ethical dilemma around using gas power on the farm, and it is still on my mind with every decision. The logic of scale demands my attestation one more, and the answer is still clear; machines save more time, wear and tear on the self, and ultimately allows longer recovery and restoration of space once transformed.

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When I stand with the teeth on one of the buckets, my spirit sings at the thought of not having to lift and move these masses of material using my wheelbarrow and a shovel. The two days it will take to do this schedule of work with a machine and truck, would take me months, and with all the other projects and responsibilities on my plate- years! When the work is done, I will have a lot of reseeding in the pastures to get done- great, I didn’t have to bring in a tractor to till before I seeded. I’ll rake the driveway to get out the track grooves in my road, and hope everything is well drained as the rainy season sets in.

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The eco blocks are placed to hold an embankment leveled out for our 20,000 gallon pillow tank. The rain catchment will come from two roofs of a combined square footage to collect more than enough water for the cistern. We opted to put in the large heavy blocks as additional structural integrity for both the water tank, and the as of yet built potting shed. In the picture above, the machine is working on the space where the shed will be constructed.

A drain pipe with plenty of drain rock went in against the eco-block wall to allow for any runoff rainwater a place to divert from, to avoid pooling and the softening of the foundations. As the larger scooping bucket began pulling the last of an old pile of drain rock from my materials yard, my heart soared again at recognizing the last of a large truck load of gravel that I had spent years moving with my truck bed and a shovel was gone. When materials move into place and I know that’s their final resting location and the use is full-filled, there is so much success in completion. Earthworks is a sort of instant gratification, and for a person who works her day to day in small increments of human scale, the machines make moving gravel and soil feel like magic.

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The pay off for using large scale planning is large return, but it also comes with a price, in ecological disruption- from the mining of materials to make the machine, it’s fuel consumption, and hydrophilic fluid nightmare should anything go wrong, to the impact on my land and budget, machines are not ideal, but they do get the job done fast and when you are working on a scale so large, it does fit the picture. I would love to see more horse power going to work in place of machines as they once did, but there are a lot of pros and cons surrounding that argument too. Let’s just say, for the sake of the here and now, that machines make the most sense where scale demands.

Mycological Heaven

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mists of Skykomish

The rains are returning to The Cascades, and we’re eager to get foraging in the forests for our mushroom friends. My partner Bernard took me to a very special mycological place where we’ve found some of our best mushrooms and most diverse specimens. This area is special for many reasons; from the second growth established forest, to the sheer inaccessibility, make this area our special foraging spot and it has not disappointed yet!

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Chlorophyllum rhacodes on the road

We drove my truck over some very rough terrain and then hiked through soaking wet forest which left us feeling very sponge like in our hike to the wonderful mushroom paradise. This feeling of being utterly soaked was exactly what fungus thrives on, and we knew our timing was right to see some splendid things. Many are still mysteries we’re trying to unfold.

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Russula

Our forest is a protected place, so the trees are growing large as the forest floor continued to rejuvenate its self after the clear cut over one hundred years ago. Here there are established duff layers and uninterrupted mycelium highways which encourage a healthy and diverse fungal family by providing mature woody food, an active biological landscape with vernal pools and seasonal streams carrying moisture and nutrients throughout the woods. These active wetlands in a maturing forest are what I dream my food forest will one day look like. You can see from the picture below that larger old trees are spaced out well and actually allow light through the canopy. Natural windblown trees create open pockets to the sky throughout this forest, letting a more diverse under-story thrive. The mushrooms love it here, and so do we.

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Second Growth Forest

Hiking around this woodland space was challenging at times, and we often found ourselves having to scale over huge fallen trucks or cross slick rock streams. The pay off is worth the effort. And let me be clear, through we are searching for edible species, we are also looking at all the diversity in our fungi, hoping to see one or two we’ve never seen. Usually, it happens.

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Clavarioid species (coral mushroom)

 

Many of the species we saw, like the coral mushroom above, are saprotrophic, meaning they feed on dead and decaying matter, like leaf litter or mulch piles. This ability to help compost the forest is an important part of mushroom magic. These little fungi are breaking down huge amounts of material into nutrients for the whole forest. They really are keeping everything in the woods healthy and balanced.

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Mature Russula with feeding sign

Animals love to eat mushrooms too, and you’ll often find sign of this predation on the mushrooms of the forest. Remember, just because the slug is munching on fungi, does not make it safe for you! I’ve said this many times, and I’ll keep at it- don’t eat anything unless you are sure- you’re only sure if a trained mycologist has shown it to you in the field and called it a safe mushroom to identify and eat. Even then, if you are unsure, don’t eat it! Assumptions about mushrooms can and will get you killed. I’m not trying to scare people away from mycology, but I will say that thinking a book will tell you what is safe and not safe to eat in the mushroom world is a crock of ****.

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That said, here in The Pacific Northwest, I find that the genus Boletus is a great gateway of relatively safe mushrooms to start paying more attention to in your foraging quests. Again, go out with a mycologist before you start picking for your kitchen. I love this picture above of a young bolete with some rhizome of mycelium coming off the bottom of this specimen. Though it was probably a safe mushroom, we did not keep it because it was too young to tell which species it was, and some are not that appetizing.

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Boletus edulis (king bolete)

None of our edible species identified were found in mass quantity, but unique shapes abound, and this Boletus edulis above was a great find with a funny shape. I did harvest and cook up this wild edible verity. There were others far too mature to collect for eating, as maggots had already taken hold of the flesh and putrefied the flavor. It is never a good idea to eat older mushroom that are starting to decompose. Often, bacteria has begun to eat the mushroom and might damage you if you ingest, just like eating any spoiled food.

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Boletus edulis very mature

A first for me on this forage was the scaly chanterelle! I found them all over the place and wondered at the fact that this seemingly abundant mushroom was not one I had ever seen before. That’s part of the magic of mushrooms; they can happen any time, any kind, and you can’t really know where. Sure, you can go back to the same spot year after year and assume you’ll see some consistency, but timing in the fungi world is everything, and moisture content also plays a huge role in when a “bloom” might occur.

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Turbinellus floccosus (scaly chanterelle)

Note what kind of substrate the mushrooms in each of these pictures is growing out of. Some are hanging off logs, others pop right up out of the soil. Also know that the mushrooms you see “blooming” are like the fruit of a tree. The main living part of the fungus is within the substrate and continues to grow and expand unseen.

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Dacrymycetes (jelly fungus)

Some kinds of fungus are so strange, it’s hard to identify them correctly. The orange jelly fungus above is my guess on the genus based on a general understanding of physical characteristics, but mushrooms often look alike, and narrowing down to a specific species is sometimes impossible without sport print analysis -usually involving a microscope and some real know how I have yet to possess, but the knowledge is there, and I will be taking more classes soon to better hone my I.D. skills.

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Aureoboletus mirabilis (admirable bolete)

The bolete above is easy to identify from the unique velvet textured cap. Combine that with the spore shape of the “gill” and brown striping on the stipe (stem) leads to a confidant label and another edible mushroom into the basket. This mushroom is safe to eat, and ripe for harvest, being young and untouched by bugs. I know that in my area, this genus has no dangerous lookalikes unless the spores and flesh are red or purple. That’s such a strong marked difference, which is another reason for people in The Pacific Northwest to keep a sharp eye out for boletes. Note I keep saying my region, The Pacific Northwest, etc. Please be aware that if you are living in a different part of the country or world, your local mushrooms could be completely different than mine and therefore, each bio-region should be treated like a totally new mushrooming experience. DO NOT ASSUME!

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Russula

The genus Russula is very different from Boletus, being are more likely to be unpalatable and even toxic to most people. There are a few choice species which are coveted, like Russula xerampelina, known as the shrimp russula. You cannot confidently identify this mushroom by looks alone. That’s where the complications start. In the picture above, you see a very young russula emerging from the ground, coated in a slimy film. This mushroom could look very different from its current form by the time it matures. Mushrooms can change everything about themselves from birth to death, and if you catch a fungus at the wrong time and assume, you might pick a tricky mystery that could make you sick. Stick to what you have been taught by the professionals and keep away from things with dangerous lookalikes.

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There’s a type of mushroom I shy away from to this day. “LBM’s” or Little Brown Mushrooms have always challenged me. My limited knowledge on smaller verities of mushroom is already limited, stack on that the color brown and you have a huge diversity of species which are mostly toxic or completely unpalatable. Because of this I neglect these shrooms, but they are still great to photograph. My hope is that as I document them, I might begin to see subtle differences between certain genus and widen my awareness of fungi. Does this mean I might start eating some? No! But learning who is who in mushrooms is a fast track to finding more yummy things to eat.

Mycology is a vast discipline of such alien beings, yet compelling to the senses, and a study of unique fauna on this earth who deserve more attention. Next time you encounter a fungus, take a picture if you can, study the shape, color, placement, substrate, and size without even touching the specimen. Avoid taking samples from the field until you are more familiar with different species and how to properly take them from the wild. Mushrooms are endless fun. and some of the most amazing flavors to experience, but again, with good instruction and awareness, this hobby is not for the impulsive. To take steps towards becoming an informed mycologist, join a mushrooming club in your area or take a class at your local college or university. In the Seattle area check out Puget Sound Mycological Society. It’s a whole world waiting to be discovered!

 

 

 

What’s In The Kitchen?

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Fall kitchen smells are off the hook at Leafhopper Farm! Took some duck fat and bone broth (from a local farmer I helped with duck butchering), added potatoes from the garden, kidney beans, chipotle peppers (from Tucson AZ), winter chanterelles (picked locally), and a little spice for flavor (cayenne pepper and cumin). This stew will keep warmth and richness close during the misty wet days of Fall.

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Mushroom season is on in our forests too, so a lot of preservation is happening at home using the dehydrator. Puffballs and chanterelles dry out and store well in glass jars with a tight lid. This is how most of my mushrooms end up so I can enjoy them for special occasions. Many are also cooked fresh- and Bernard made a great soup with tomato and fresh chanterelles last weekend which was divine! There will be lost more mushrooming to come, also look for my other blog post about what we’re finding up in the mountains and bringing home to the kitchen.

Any good soup should have a nice bread to go with it, so I took some wheat berries sourced in state near Palouse WA and ground it up to make a few loaves of fresh bread. In this baked treat I also added some home grown seeds like plantain. I’m waiting for yeast to rise as we speak, and hope to have the whole meal ready by this afternoon. Bread baking can be a fickled sport, with chemistry demanding your full compliance to reach maximum success. Because my yeast is stored in the fridge, it takes a little longer to activate with warm water and the flour.

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The key to fluffy bread is lots of yeast rise, and I’ll be letting this chemical reaction happen twice before I bake, meaning I have to follow a strict timeline and not get distracted by animal antics or other lovely farm flavors beckoning out the front door.I’ve lost a loaf or two when the yeast rose too much and finally collapsed in the oven and I was left with a flatbread I had not intended. These culinary risks are great lessons in how precise cooking can be.

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One other fun taste of the kitchen comes in the form of simple home brewing. I took some frozen blackberries, boiled them for the juice, poured off into carboy and cooled down a little before adding honey and the juice of two grapefruits. I’m trying this recipe in trust that there was enough natural yeast on the berries to coax fermentation on with the sugars from the honey. My airlock is bubbling a little- I’m sure if it was a little warmer, things would be more active, but that’s brewing in The Pacific Northwest, temperatures can fluctuate quite a bit, which is why there is a sweater on the carboy- it also shuts out light. I plan to let this jug sit for a few months, then rack it off a second time and add more honey to encourage more fermentation before bottling the final project as a fruity wine. Let’s hope there was enough natural yeast!

From mushrooms to wine, Leafhopper Farm is churning out inspiration for your culinary exploration of local taste and flavor. The recopies are general guidelines -I rarely use measurements outside of 1 cup. and often add a dash of this or that. It’s really about flavors you like coming together to create something edible and fun. At food production is a big focus of this farm and my own life, I try to share what’s being consumed to pair the harvest with the table. Enjoy!

Fall Garden

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peeking pumpkin

The coming Fall harvest is growing fast at Leafhopper Farm! Pumpkins, tomatoes, summer squash, potatoes, and kale dominate the front garden with abundance. Seeds of radish, lettuce, chard, onion, spinach and more are ready to seed next year’s veggies and must be gleaned out before rains set in. Note in the photo below how much space squash need to flourish. These tendrils will need to be cut back to ensure the fruit already developing on the vine will fully mature. There is one verity of squash which has grown very large, sometimes turning orange, but maintaining a zucchini like patterning on the rind. I’ve harvested four green ones and left one orange one on the vine to see how big it will grow. The taste of this fruit is slightly sweet and very pleasant. I like it better than a lot of other well known verities, but I don’t think it will store well; too watery.

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Flowers are still blooming around the edges of the garden to encourage more pollination, but the vitality of these colorful blossoms is waning fast. The tomatoes will also have to come up soon, as damp cool fall weather will rot the whole plant, and fruit. If we pull up the plants soon and hang them upside down in a dry dark place, the fruit will continue to grow and ripen for a few more weeks. After we uproot the tomatoes, another fall planting of root veggies like parsnips can go in. We’ll also sheet mulch some areas of this garden with cardboard after applying a layer of fresh manure into the soil.

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Kale seed is the most abundant this year, and we’ll take time in selecting only the most productive plants to seed out again next year. Some seeds will have to be stored in dry places inside till sewing next year, while others are dropped into the soil now to overwinter under a layer of mulch till it warms up next Spring. In the picture above, you can see bright green small leaves of a lettuce seeded in earlier this summer growing into maturity now as the greens cycle through with new plantings every few weeks. The farm keeps a lot of lettuce seed handy for continual crops throughout the year.

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Because there was not a lot of weeding done in this garden for the 40 days I was gone, a few unwanted species, like bracken fern and morning glory, started to crowd in. But in only a few hours of hard work, the whole garden was soon rid of such pests, for now. The morning glory will overwinter underground where a particularly tenacious rhizome continues to survive. The bracken fern uses much the same strategy. Surface pulling continues to be the best method for long term inhalation. For a garden gone wild for over a month, productivity and diversity continue to thrive.

Cat Update

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Muir and Lucia are thriving, and the two kittens- Nickie and Nora (both female)- are growing up fast. I think momma cat is pregnant again (for the last time) and we’ll be knee deep in kittens again in another month or so if this is the case.

The potato crop was great this year, and most of the starts I planted in the gardens this year came through to harvest, so I will tip my hat to the cats, especially Muir, for keeping voles and rabbits away from our high maintenance food crops.

Mice are scarce, though still showing up in the more removed buildings at the farm. Our grain room is rodent free, and the main house is not hosting any unwanted pests so again, the cat presence is making a notable difference, but still, rats persist.

A new hen house will be the best solution, with elevated main coop off the ground so rats won’t move in underneath. The old coop should be torn down, or at least totally gutted for renovation, but only after the new coop is built. Since the cat’s can’t build the coop, I have a fall mission. Let’s see if we can pair the build with hunting season.

The new kittens will be adopted out to good homes, a few are already spoken for. The two kittens now on farm already have appointments for a vet visit to prevent future unwanted offspring. Lucia will be spayed after her second litter. We’ll continue to enjoy our feline friends here at Leafhopper Farm.

Valley of The Gods, UT

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On our 40 day trip, we visited southern Utah to see the rock monuments made famous by early western like Stagecoach (John Wayne’s first movie). This place is powerful, both in size and scope. We cane directly from the north and descended over 1,000 feet into the valley below on one of the scariest switchback gravel roads I have ever encountered. Valley of The Gods is near the four corners area, a place where, during The Red Scare, plutonium was mined and shipped all over the south west to sites like Los Alamos for use in atomic war machines. The land is naturally saturated with the ore, and reverse osmosis technology is utilized to make drinking water safe for the local population.

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In the pictures I share, you might notice smokey haze all around. Even in a desert, we are still feeling the forest fires from Idaho and Yellowstone. The sunrise above is red for this reason. By our second day here, winds picked up and carried the smoke another direction. Though the people who live in and around this valley have little fear of fire, they are aware of drought which has gripped this region for over 15 years. August is usually the time of monsoon rains all over the south west, but here in southern Utah, there has been little rain during this month, and no sign of things changing any time soon.

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The Navajo once wandered this range with their sheep, left by the Spanish explorers in the 1600s. The tribes have moved on, as without rain nothing will grow and the animals starve, then the people. In this valley, there is only one house, of stone, a bed and breakfast operated by a wonderful couple who are passionate about ecology and the environmental movement. They chose to live here for many reasons, the view alone is incredible. They also love the remoteness; their nearest neighbors are some miles away and you can see no other human built structures from the house. But the drought is starting to pressure even them. After 25 years, the house is for sale, only to the right people of course. Whom ever does try to take on this space will contend with a low producing well, having to haul water from 45 min. away each day, and lots of alone time.

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All over the southwest, drought is taking a deep hold. We noticed hardy plants like willow dying back, and even cacti were struggling. Our hosts informed us that in the past five years, they have watched most of the vegetation in the region turn brown and wither away. The bastion of green around the house is maintained through grey water systems. Their roof catchment cistern never fills, and they must haul a tank back and forth on a truck which at least runs of vegetable oil. The writing is on the wall, deserts are becoming deserted. For people who watch weather for 25 years and have some experience with ecology, it is impossible to deny that the climate here is changing, and not for the better.

40 Days

August 1st – September 10th, 2018

From Duvall, WA to Santa Fe, NM and back at a whopping 6,873 miles of driving. From Palouse Falls in southeastern Washington, to Four Strong Winds Kennel in Potlach, ID, our many adventures, both planned and unplanned, offer some wonderful memories to share.

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Palouse Falls, WA

One of our hightlits on the journey was hunting fossils at a famous deposit near Kemmerer, WY. At American Fossil, you can dig all day for a fee, and keep what you find, though there are some rare exceptions. Bernard and I loved our first planned dig so much, we decided on our way back to Washington, that we would go a second time.

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American Fossil Quarry, WY

We were armature geologists with a passion for all things crust related, which helped focus our planning in the big drive. Though our destination was Santa Fe, NM, we wanted to take our time getting too and from the southwest, enjoying the topography as we traveled, as that was what we were going to be seeing most of anyway, and it was truly a pleasure to “enjoy the scenery”.

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McConkie Ranch, UT

Near Vernal UT, we tracked down the most amazing petroglyphs and petrographs at a place stewarded by McConkie Ranch. I’d ever seen (though I am sure I’ve seen little out there). These culturally rich stories in pictorial language -vague gestures, stark shape, sending a message to all who gaze; my mind searching for understanding, always wondering. The art sprawled across over a mile of canyon wall, and that was only what we had access to at the ranch. The family who allows public contact with their precious artifacts, are very generous indeed, and they say the land will continue to be open to the public (with a small parking fee of $5 for continued maintenance of the trail), so long as the pictures are left undisturbed.

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In Idaho, we encountered a forest on fire, and so, spent the evening at Arrowrock Reservoir outside Boise, ID. There, a swarm of mormon crickets Anabrus simplex, gave us a warm welcome as we watched an orange sun set in a red sky. Fire is part of forest ecology, but with the complete disruption of natural cycles by human development (lack of enough elk to brows down forest under-story, keeping tinderbox environments to a minimum for example), conflagrations can happen, always threatening human life because we are building into these self-cultivated hot zones. We also noted how low the reservoir was, as with growing population, growing demand consumes more natural resources, though those resources remain finite. When will too much become not enough?

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In New Mexico, we met with family and enjoyed many excursions into the surrounding public land available in the southwest. Tsankawi Prehistoric Sites was one such place, and if you are anywhere near Bandelier National Monument, please go. This site is a chance to see the homes of early N. America Peoples. The rock cliffs were fortifications for villages who made there homes in the rock. The homes were no so much caves in the rock, but wooden lean-to structures against the rock. Below is a photo of a foot path carved deep into the stone paired with the tourist path above, as the more worn trail is really too narrow for people of today. It was possibly also a way to catch water, channeling down the rock faces into catchment basins below. When drought hit in the late 16th century, the people were forced to abandon their well loved home. Climate change has been shifting populations since the beginning of time. I wonder how long the people held out before finally getting the message and move on?

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If you visit the southwest today during August, you might experience the monsoon season. Rains do come to a lot of the desert, and we happened to time our visit to hit New Mexico’s mushroom spring! Bernard and I scoured the hillsides of nearby mountain forests and found an abundance of wonderful fungi. The basket below shows the diversity of edible shrooms we collected in only a few hours of walking around. It was a truly magical time in the mountains, and we were so lucky to witness the rains. I also found my first white king bolete Boletus barrowsii, a rare treat in foraging circles.

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We also continued our search for petroglyphs and found one site that had the most Kokopelli depictions available to the public. This too was a wonderful rock moment, climbing a cliff of basalt above The Rio Grande and finding a concentration of prehistoric art like nothing I’d ever seen. Studying the art, I often found that moving back and forth across the space from different directions revealed new pictures, depending on where I stood. I wondered how important stance along the rock canvas mattered, also how much had changed since the original rock was carved. It was evident that some of the stones had fallen down, causing a shift in perspective. This site, because of it’s ease of access, had a lot of modern graffiti on top of the original art, making it hard at times to sort copies from original work. It was great to walk right up to the face of the rock, experiencing these forms so freely, yet sad to also see how people had misused the space, carving into what was probably quite sacred and unique stories. We carve the earth in much the same way throughout civilization, never truly looking into the soil and stone we turn in the name of progress.

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Protected open space, where plants, animals, and people can enjoy the natural cycle of each season uninterrupted, is near to impossible today. The topography of the landscape has been altered so drematically by human hands, it is sometimes hard to see, but even in the picture below, Valles Caldera seems like prestine wilderness, and it is now in protection, but it will take many more generations of stewardship to let this habitat return to her own. For hundreds of years, settlers grazed cattle and sheep in this valley, cutting all the trees back and driving out wild animals like the elk, who once roamed here in the tens of thousands. In recent years, forest fires have wrought havoc on the surrounding mountain tops, leaving a reminder of nature’s ability to quickly change the environment. If you take another look, you can see even more powerful energies of the earth at work; the very rim of this caldera reminds us of the extrema geology right under our feet. Many millions of years ago, this area was home to many large volcanoes, spilling ash and lava across the landscape, an impossible place for any life to survive.

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Valles Caldera, NM

The beauty of nature can be short lived, but in our short stint on earth, we struggle to see the bigger ecological picture. On our trip, I sometimes struggled with feeling outside of the natural world, usually looking at it from within a truck at 60mph. We spent a lot of time out in nature, camping, hiking, sitting, watching, melting in, but still, gas stations, grocery stores, and the scope of man’s intrusion into natural cycles through industrial and commercial activity were impossible to ignore.

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Valles Caldera, NM

Even in more remote spots of National Forest, where we drove several hours to get into back country, we came upon cattle guards, fencing, and a lot of cows. Most of the National Forest in the US rents out the land to loggers, miners, frackers, ranchers, and other takers of our public natural resources. Those materials turn into fast food burgers, unleaded fuel for the truck, paper in a journal, jewelry, even parts of a cell phone, all of our materials come from nature. We must consume, to live, but our consumption is left unchecked, and our population keeps growing, therefor demanding more. How many more cows can we put in the shrinking forests? How many more of those forests have to be cut down. What if wildfires keep growing? Where will we get our resources then?

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Valles Caldera, NM

Even in the picture above, burned forest is the backdrop now for grazing cattle. Ranchers take advantage of new growth within the national forest surrounding Valles Caldera. Forest fires do renew the soil, but they should not be hot enough to burn all the trees like this. Then new growth begins, but if you run cattle on that new growth, it will be very hard to get trees to regrow. For ranchers, that’s just fine, because open pastures are better for grazing than forests, which shade out grasses below. Without proper recovery management for burned forests, those forests may be lost forever.

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Lost Creek Wilderness, CO

In Colorado, Bernard and I took time to visit my old stomping ground near South Park, in The Lost Creek Wilderness. This is a place which is cultivated as wilderness, yet still allows cattle to graze. At leas we could enjoy the grand nature without too many cow patties where we camped. Wilderness is supposed to be left to its own, with access for people to enjoy primitive pursuits in a more intact back country. On this night, we woke to below freezing temperatures and realized summer was coming to an end. This site was also the highest place we camped, at about 10,000 feet above sea level.

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Puma Hills, CO

Fire was a constant companion on the road, for better or worse. We did enjoy taking the time to design safe and warming campfire ovens in some places where fire danger was high. At this site in Puma Hills Colorado, we camped in a boulder field and were able to make a wonderful rock oven. This charming evening scene with our two camp chairs was a nightly occurrence for many days, and we grew quite fond of the ritual. Our first night back in Duvall, we sat in the living room and felt a little less connected without fire. Luckily, in a few months the woods stove will be back on, and fire will become a routine once again in our day to day living.

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Florissant, CO

Our second quarry dig took place in Florissant, CO. The dig site was known for it’s insect fossils, and though they were very small, we managed to find a few in the soft shale. Millions of years can be traced in only a few thin layers of rock, spanning time, climate change, evolution, and endless other signs of the change our planet has seen through its creation. All the small things, microscopic things that make up our world, the endless learning as we delve deeper into the bones of the earth, how enriching!

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Kemmerer, WY

We did take a second trip to Kemmerer, WY, and dug ourselves a few more cool fish from the shale beds. Bernard enjoys driving with his fish against the backdrop of shallow sea sholes now rolling with grasslands instead of ocean waves. As we spent more time interpreting the landscapes around us on our travels, we began to see extinct volcanoes all around, incredible upheaval in the earth’s crust. We wondered at how stable and calm the land is now, and has remained through human history in our little blip on the earths history as a whole. Mother nature could flip on her tectonic plate shuffle and turn us all head over heel overnight if she likes, and we are helpless to even comprehend such destructive force.

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Teton Valley, ID

We had the pleasure of spending a few days in Teton Valley Idaho, on the other side of The Teton Mountains from Jackson Hole, WY. The Teton Range is the youngest mountain range in America. The tectonic plates working their magic here are the same faults shared by Yellowstone National Park. In the picture above, we spent the night in an old shepard’s wagon, enjoying a more rustic night on the range. On Labor Day, we were invited to join friends on The Teton River for a float. I even purchased a two day fishing license and caught some tasty trout while we lazily meandered down the river with breathtaking views of the mountains. We also saw 3 moose.

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Norris Geyser Basin, WY

In Yellowstone, we took time to appreciate the geothermal activities of the area. We spent 2 nights in Norris Camp Ground, taking day trips into the surrounding park to see wildlife, geysers, and a lot more. While touring Norris Geyser Basin, we happened to bare witness to the awesome power of Steamboat Geyser. Above is a picture of the geyser before eruption, below, behold the awesome power of nature!

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Norris Geyser Basin, WY

We watched this explosive action for a while, the realized the truck was getting covered in silica across the parking lot from the eruption, and took our leave to save the windshield from micro scratches. It was still a great experience, and we have lots of great footage of the eruption. WordPress is not very friendly with video content, so I will share a link to You Tube instead.

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Lamar Valley, WY

Yellowstone National Park is an epic place, and I’d like to go back to spend more time there exploring, especially in less popular seasons like winter to avoid crowds. We hung out a lot in Lamar Valley, hoping to see wolves. We didn’t but buffalo behavior was all around, and we spent an enjoyable amount of time roaming with them across the glacially formed valleys beyond the thermal activity of the caldera. Recognizing when something was volcanic, versus ice flow in form, was a great lesson from the park.

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Beartooth Pass, MT

In our final driving, we stopped off in Potlach Idaho to meet the momma dog of my next puppy. Bill is an old world mountain man with a passion for good hunting dogs. I’ve been talking with him via email for many months now and already put down a payment for a Large Munsterlander puppy in 2019. I’ve chosen this breed for temperament, drive, and the challenge of training a good hunting dog. My old pup Indo, who died in 2017, was such amazingly trained dog, I can’t take all the credit, but I want to see if the training was really partly my gift, by trying a more formal breed with the intention of hunting grouse and truffles. It was a pleasure to finally meet the breeder n person, see his dogs, and watch them work a field as we took a stroll.

Potlach, ID

Finally, after 40 days of driving, we headed back into Washington and made the long eastern crossing back to The Cascades. In coming over Snoqualmie Pass on I90, we were greeted by rising clouds and forming rain. Truly, the Pacific Northwest, the temperate rain-forest, this special place is where we call home. Though Bernard and I talked a few times about why we might move to a particular place we visited, we always came back to our beloved western Washington as the ideal, even while picking some epic mushrooms in New Mexico. The great thing about this trip, is we learned how close some of these amazing places really are. Yellowstone is less than 12 hours from our doorstep, that’s a day or two of beautiful driving to enjoy. We’ll continue to plan more trips into the field, but also want to take more time to appreciate what’s already in our backyard. Washington state is truly a lifetime of exploring, and we’re well on our way!

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Fossils back at Leafhopper Farm, WA