Friday, October 17, 2014

3 thousand words

Actually, just a teaser. A and I managed to front-load our fall just a bit. More later.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Leucistic dusky grouse

The blue grouse I grew up with has fallen prey to the splitters (yes, yes, I've heard- DNA, distinct geographical populations, etc. etc.), and now is the dusky grouse.

Recently, A and I were up in the north central mountains of NM looking for edible mushrooms when we came across a leucistic grouse, of the now dusky variety, part of a family group or covey.

Ghost bird:

A normally colored member of the covey:

What a cool variation. I hope the white bird makes it through the season and is able to pass those genes along.

Saturday, September 13, 2014


Slow on blogging, but A and I have been getting out into the country a bit lately and I should try to catch up.

Firstly, a little while ago some friends tipped us off that the bolete mushrooms were flushing in Northern NM, so we headed up to our old stomping grounds for a quick overnighter in the back of the truck, hoping to replenish our supply. Success!

We found enough boletus barrowsii to fill our winter supply jar.

Soups, stews, and sauces will all benefit for the next year or so. We managed to dry a few more than fit in the jar, but didn't quite load up.

 Shortly thereafter, we made a day trip to our nearby mountains for elderberries, hitting it just a bit early. Nonetheless, we secured a good supply of this necessary component for a favorite jelly. We also found a couple of the largest examples of the cauliflower mushroom that we've yet come across. Sparassis radicata or Sparassis crispa, most sources relate that radicata is the western variant. Regardless, these were prime and delicious.

Our friend Jeff introduced us to a really nice technique for cauliflower mushroom, that being to saute it fairly slowly in butter until tender and then keep going until it browns a little and crisps up- an excellent side dish to almost anything, but particularly game meat.

Next, we went to our first organized mycological foray, this one by the NM Mycological Society- an interesting group of folks with a lot of expertise to share. This year's foray was based in Las Vegas, NM, and we stayed in the great old Plaza Hotel. A bit ragged around the edges after over a hundred years of operation, our room was quiet and very reasonably priced. Just around the town square we found a brew pub and a restaurant next door that served the hottest green chile I've had in a long time, some of the most typical northern New Mexican food we've found in years. Combined with lovely weather (cool and rainy) and some relatively new country to explore, it was a great weekend.

Last, for the Labor Day holiday weekend we headed back up north, to look for mushrooms again and perhaps take advantage of opening day of bird season. The first day was absolutely chilly at 9,000 feet of elevation, a welcome change after a long summer.

Since hunting didn't start until September 1st, we spent the first couple of days picking currants and mushrooms, checking out country and scouting around. Band Tailed Pigeons were loafing in some spruce and fir along one ridge each of those days, but strong winds apparently pushed them elsewhere once the season opened. Big birds, they'd come bombing out of the tops of the spruce on the steep hillside and, if we had gotten into them, the shooting would have been really tough. We also looked around for grouse, seeing them before the season but having no luck on opening day. Perhaps later in the year.

Mushrooming was more successful. The king boletes were pretty scarce, but we found nice stands of chanterelles, our first encounter with that prized edible in NM.

Back home, we tried a cream of mushroom soup as suggested by Hank Shaw. It was good, but we're still a bit ambiguous about the shrooms, not having found the best flavors to go with them and spoiled to the aforementioned king boletes and cauliflowers. Further experimentation is assured by several packages of chanterelles sauteed in butter and squirreled away in the freezer.

Also for later in the fall is the wild red currant jelly we put up from the prolific ribes encountered in the high country (A has keyed them out as ribes montigenum).

A couple of hours of picking (and pricking) resulted in a nice batch of currants.

Which in turn became a slightly tart jelly.

If our big game hunts go well, I foresee a Cumberland sauce in the future. Otherwise, it will just have to be buttermilk biscuits with red currant jelly.

Here's hoping the season is proceeding as well for all of you all!

Friday, July 18, 2014

beetles with taste

When A and I first arrived down in southern NM and got a house, we planted fruit trees right away. Even if you're not sure you'll be in a place long, if you get fruit trees in the ground you might get a crop before you know it and, in the Land of Entrapment, it's never wise to predict moving on. Consequently, we put in two cherries, an apricot, and a peach. One of the cherries and the apricot promptly died and the other cherry tree gave up last spring, but the dwarf peach has carried on and this year we've actually been getting a decent batch of peaches off of it.

Alas, despite netting to avoid the depredations of birds and red squirrels, we're still sharing way too much in the way of peach flesh.

The culprits?

Based upon one miscreant caught in the act from this picking, at least some of them are click beetles.

Regardless of the losses, we're pretty happy that our tree is producing in its fourth year. Not enough fruit to can or even freeze, but enough for sliced peaches in the morning or over homemade vanilla ice cream. Peaches, like tomatoes, are one of those fruits that are best ripened all the way on the vine and then eaten fresh. I don't think I've ever purchased a decent peach in a grocery store. Next year, if it looks like we'll get peaches again we'll look at some control so we don't have to share quite as much with them.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

summer and bbq

Today dawned cool-ish, cloudy, and very humid with some puddles from an overnight shower. I'll take it as a good portent for the rest of the summer, as it always seems to me that the monsoon season should start around Independence Day if we are going to have a good one.

Chad Love recently posted about the drought continuing in his end of the near-Southwest. In contrast, southeast NM has the prospect of at least approaching "abnormally dry". After no precip for the first four and a half months of the year, we got a big storm in late May followed by some decent rain in June. If the afternoon thundershowers come through for the rest of July and into August, we might actually see some birds this year and the deer, elk, antelope, etc. that have made it this far might go into the winter in decent shape.

Many years we celebrated Independence Day by taking advantage of the opportunity to go up to a wine festival near Santa Fe which features New Mexico wines. That festival is a bit further down the road, so this year we contented ourselves with work, house work, and making another foray into cooking ribs.

This year it was back ribs. A little salt and pepper is all they got before going onto the barbecue, indirect heat only with smoke from oak splits, four and a half hours at around 200 F.
A cold beer and some light reading make tending the fire and the meat barely any work at all.

Meanwhile, sauce, this one a ketchup based recipe with lots of added acid and a fair bit of heat, along with diced onion and celery. I'd post the recipe, but it isn't mine to share.

For the last hour and a half or so, I wiped the meat with the sauce every ten to fifteen minutes to create a glazing. The sauce and glazing technique are both from A's father, who has been making fantastic ribs in a well seasoned  mushi kamado pot for decades. Lacking a ceramic pot steeped in years of smoke and vaporized meat essence, not to mention anything like the amount of practice, I didn't get to quite the same result. Nonetheless,

at the risk of bragging, they came out pretty well. The low heat kept the sauce from burning except on the very ends of the bones, where it formed little crunch bits of carcinogenic goodness, and the meat was nicely seasoned and glazed. Another hour on the heat would have been good, but the meat still falls of the bone. The layer of connective tissue on the inside of the ribs wasn't quite to the point that it completely falls apart, hence the call for an extra hour. All I needed was an earlier start, another couple of chapters to read, and another Shiner (or so).

In a completely uncompensated endorsement, if you can find it, I'd strongly recommend accompanying your summer grilled meats (or winter elk frites) with Korbel's "Rouge"

A medium-dry sparkling pinot noir/cabernet blend, this is a medium bodied red that goes well with well handled game, not so tannic that it overpowers the meat, but still handles the richness of barbecued ribs well. At +/- $12 a bottle, it isn't too much of an extravagance to go with a nice dinner.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

interface, part 2

Last year we had cat and squirrel through the glass. Come the new year, the parties have stepped up their game a bit:

Getting up into the tree, the cat can't quite keep up with the tree rat.

So, he takes his metaphorical ball and goes home (look on the right side of the trunk, one cat-height above Tommy's back).


Sunday, February 23, 2014


Ragweed, kochia, grass, creasote bush, or elm, all take second seat to juniper, which fills the eyes with tears and the air with sneezes come this time of year in the Southwest.

That isn't dust, it's pollen knocked loose by a thrown stone and a small portion of what that tree is producing right not. The occasional 70 degree day in February doesn't come without a price.