Friday, May 22, 2009

On turning 30

I turned 30 exactly 1 week ago. I was in the middle of an intense field trip on Prince of Wales Island working on stream surveys for an ongoing project. My birthday took a back seat to getting work done in a beautiful place with some great people. Perfect.

Not to be all navel-gazy or anything, but it feels pretty darn good to leave my 20's behind. Now, when people in my office gently chastise me for my youth I can respond with an ever mature, "nu-uh I'm 30 now." (Doesn't change the fact that I'm the youngest person in my office.

My very sweet co-workers stuck candles in muffins for me before we headed out (at an ungodly 7 am). Also, my friend Scott shared some of his very expensive scotch with me (Languvulian--I think?). It was like drinking a muskeg.


Now I just have to make myself a cake for my special day. I love getting to choose whatever I want even if tDF won't really like it. It is my speshul day after all.

Monday, May 11, 2009

a big bowl of failure

Lately, I've really sucked at cooking. There was the salty shortbread issue, a bland chicken tomato problem that was so awful I couldn't even write about it here, and now my aioli failure. (I can also add a batch of chocolate drop cookies that called for margarine but I refuse to buy margarine and used butter instead. I was told by my resident food critic, the Dirty Fisherman, that I was wrong and shouldn't always insist on using butter for everything. This from a man who lives on bean burritos and turkey burgers when I'm not around. Also, butter always wins.)

I took a picture of it, but really who wants to see a bunch of really oily mayonnaise? Nobody.

I followed a recipe for traditional aioli from Larousse Gastronomique. The encyclopedia of french cooking. Also known as the book that is NEVER wrong and ALWAYS awesome. It sucked a big one this last Saturday.

I was feeling that adding garlic and lemon juice to regular old Best Foods wasn't good enough for my cockle fritters. I looked up four (4) aioli/mayonnaise recipes and finally settled on Larousse's. There were 4 cloves of garlic, 1 egg yolk, and 1 cup of olive oil. It was perfect after 3/4 cup of oil, but the recipe said 1 cup. That 1/4 cup of oil curdled what should have been a bowl of bliss. When aioli fails it's called curdling.

After scooping all the oily goo out of my Cuisinart (throwing it away was not an option because olive oil costs about $20/liter here and I am frugal) whirring another yolk and adding the mixture to it. I was about to huck this mess out the door.

Julia Child saved the day. You can save a problem like broken or curdled aioli by mixing 1 Tbsp yuck aioli with 1 tsp prepared mustard and whisking vigorously. Then you add your abomination of an aioli 1 tsp at a time and whisk until you have a perfect aioli. It totally worked but my wrist is sore today.

So, in conclusion Julia Child kicked the crap out of Larousse. Really, Larousse learn to convert or something.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Um, hi. What's a Muskeg?

It's a local term for a wetland. According to the always correct Wikipedia, it's originally a Cree word. It is not as cool-sounding as reedswamp, mire, fen, or vlei. All wetland terms sound Jabberwoky'd to the maxx. I love it. This is a muskeg:
This is what we scientists call a "country muskeg." They're kind of everywhere and boring. Although they are the primary habitat for little carnivorous Sundews (Drosera rotundifolia) and Butterworts (Picguicula vulgaris).
(Sundews on a sphagnum blanket bog)

In a marginally productive muskeg you get white bog orchids (Platanthera dilatata).
These smell like cinnamon and jasmine. They can grow to immense sizes in the right circumstances:
That orchid is about 3.5 feet tall. It is the symptom of an incredibly productive estuarine wetland system. That's me with my huge-ass gun I'm required to carry. (It's a Winchester .375 H&H for all of you that care. I shoot nossler (?) bullets. They come in a box that says Safari and has a silhouette of a rhino on it, so I'm cool.)

Higher quality muskegs get called fens around here. Fen is science for get's groundwater flow. Impress your parents with the word minerotrophic which means the same thing. This is by far my most favorite fen ever. It's in Game Creek, at the foot of a limestone complex called the Vortex on Chichagof Island.
O/T: the Vortex is/was also the name of a lime-green roller coaster at Great America, in the Bay Area. I think it's now called Paramount's Great America or Gillette presents Pac Bell's interpretation of Paramount's Great American Expensive Day in Line. So, that's what I think of when I gaze at the majesty of the Vortex. (We are all looking at it in that picture, but I don't have a picture. sorry)

This is a calcareous fen--the richest and most productive wetland around here. They are just neat.

Now, I shouldn't have to explain what a Harpy is. tDF calls it yappy.

Monday, May 4, 2009


It was a minus 3 tide about a week ago. Every spring we get a slough of minus tides that are really fun to poke around in. We unearthed this dungeness crablet while poking around the rocks.

He was so pissed. Nothing get's all ticked off like a crab. They are the yelly olds of the marine world. But this l'il guy was so small, he couldn't get his teeny claws around the flesh of tDF's fingers. (The Dirty Fisherman, it should be noted, has killed many a crab in his time of boats.) It was like watching a Jack Russell try and bite an excavator.

Thanks to Natalie Dee for coining Quab. It's perfect.

This is a clam. It's a ginormous horse clam. There was a little albino crab living in it. I took a picture but it was terrible and blurry so I deleted it. We saw all these divots on a sandy patch that were siphon holes for something big. (Big divots = mutant clam).

Clamasaurus Rex was returned to the hole from which he was excised. We didn't dig more out because the thought of digging enough clams for dinner with a rock sounded awful and there wasn't a bucket in the car. Also, these aren't very tasty clams. We prefer cockles.