So long, summer: a recap
Makings of a Book, Work

So Long, Summer: A Recap

As I sit down to write for the first time in weeks, the political noise on social media is taking a backseat to more important matters. An entire summer of pictures are downloaded and sorted, the first round of edits are back in my project manager’s hands, and my book cover is finalized. The house is clean, the baby is sleeping, and I’ve even squeezed in some long-overdue garden chores. (This picture, by the way, is an overgrown beet that had been sitting in soil for over a year!) In spite of emotions running rampant and the world reeling from the election this past week, my overarching feeling today is, “It’s good to be back.”

I know fall has been happening for nearly two months now, but it feels like I’ve only just caught up with summer. Progress on The New Camp Cookbook has been moving along swiftly, and strangely, I’m psyched to be blogging again — even after pouring 50,000 words into my manuscript.

You might remember where we last left off with the book: I’d returned from a two-week road trip around the Southwest and the Rockies, the first of several trips that we took this summer to shoot content and develop recipes.

A couple weeks after coming home, we were off again to Idyllwild, California, to shoot the book cover at Marion Mountain Campground. What we’d originally planned as three days in camp turned into six days and an ambitious photo shoot that spread over two adjacent campsites. (There’s so much to share about the cover — and the final pick that surprised us — which I’ll detail in a forthcoming post.)

Marion Mountain Campground in Idyllwild

Camping clothesline

Grilling grapes for The New Camp Cookbook

Setting up a recipe shot for The New Camp Cookbook

Shooting The New Camp Cookbook in Idyllwild

Photo props for The New Camp Cookbook

Shooting The New Camp Cookbook in Idyllwild, California

Shooting The New Camp Cookbook at Marion Mountain Campground

A couple weeks after that, we borrowed the most adorable trailer from Happier Camper (a local business in Silverlake that’s killing it with their retro-inspired but super innovative camper designs) and headed up the coast to Ventura and Santa Barbara. Out there, we spent another few days camping at an RV park, cooking on the beach, sharing our meals with the three ladies camping on either side of us (each of them taking solo RV trips — how cool is that?), and shooting another round of recipes.

Happier Camper in Santa Barbara

Shooting The New Camp Cookbook on the Ventura coast

Then we had a week of photography at home, using tablecloths and rustic surfaces you might recognize from the previous book. Up until that point, I’d been doing all of my cooking and cleaning at rather primitive campsites and let me tell you, having hot running water and especially a dishwasher was such a luxury!

Skillet pizza from The New Camp Cookbook

As you can probably guess, the garden suffered a bit this summer and we only kept a couple of raised beds going. The rest were mulched with straw so we could start fresh in the fall. On the upside, I scored a victory against the flea beetles this year and had an excellent crop of tomatillos, which I’d been trying to grow for the past two years. (These golden tomatillos are the Amarylla variety.)

Amarylla tomatillos

Our grapevines, which are pretty finicky, actually produced a decent grape harvest and we remembered to pick them before they turned into raisins.

Homegrown grapes

And all of our fruit trees and shrubs were going gangbusters, which unfortunately for us (but happily for the chickens) meant there were lots of fig beetles buzzing around the yard. Among doing other things…

Fig beetles getting busy

Here’s that beet again, placed next to an apple for scale. Yes, I tried to cook it, and no, it wasn’t edible.

Gargantuan beet

At the tail end of summer, we hit the road one last time to Montana and Oregon, passing through Utah, Wyoming, Idaho, and Washington along the way. The Berry Fire forced us to spend a night in Driggs, Idaho, and take a new route north from Jackson. That unexpected detour made me fall in love with the Teton Valley and, I gotta say, Driggs might be my new favorite town at the moment.

Teton Valley, Idaho

Antler arch at Jackson Town Square

Lake Alva in Montana

When we finally made it to West Glacier, Montana, the seasons literally changed with the arrival of the fall equinox. The trees in the backyard of our cabin were green one week and gold the next, just like that. It was magical. While in Montana, Gemma checked off a few more firsts: kayaking, rafting, and visiting her seventh national park. (She was six months old at the time!)

Fall color in West Glacier, Montana

Kayaking on Lake McDonald

Rafting on the Flathead River

Hidden Lake in Glacier National Park

Hiking at Logan Pass

Alpenglow in Glacier National Park

Following Montana was Bend, Oregon, where we spent a week climbing, hiking, and touring around town. In between all of that, we shot landscapes for the book, tested more recipes, and put the finishing touches on the manuscript.

Smith Rock State Park in Bend, Oregon

Rock climbing at Smith Rock State Park

After three weeks on the road, we came home, kicked up our feet and sighed with relief. It was the busiest, wildest, most fun, and most inspiring summer I’ve ever had, but I am so happy to be back — back to the blog, the garden, and the chickens, enjoying my idle time and cooking just because. (There’s not a measuring spoon in sight and I’m feeling very rebellious about it!)

Gemma was amazing through it all — disrupted schedules, strange beds, long car rides, nothing seemed to faze her — and I think we’ve got a born explorer on our hands. When I was gathering snapshots for the book, I found some from her first camping trips at two and three months old. She was so tiny! It’s hard to believe she’s now sitting and soon to be crawling.

She’s also turned into quite the little foodie. Her foray into solid foods was a successful one, and she’s eating nearly all the same things that we’re eating, even pickled roasted beets. We skipped the puree stage and went straight to what’s called baby-led weaning — finger foods, basically. It’s saved so much time in the kitchen and helped introduce a huge variety of flavors and textures to her palate. There’s no food this kid won’t eat! (That’s a feijoa in her hand, and I have a few recipes coming for those of you who are drowning in feijoa harvests right now.)

Eating a feijoa

And that brings us to today. If you’re still reading this far along, thank you so much for being here. I realize the content on my blog has been slim this year, and I truly appreciate you sticking around while I juggled a new book and new baby with an unpredictable travel schedule and unreliable wifi. Now that things have slowed to a more mellow pace, I’m ready to catch up, recharge, and hatch new ideas.

In the coming months, I’ll be starting a series on natural pest control in the garden, sharing some behind-the-scenes peeks at the making of my new book, and most importantly, working on a full redesign of the blog, including a mobile-friendly theme. I’m excited and committed to it.

Stay tuned!

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  • Sally

    Always enjoy your blog and adventures. I did the same as you without having to write a cookbook. Traveled around the US with a baby for three months. It was 1970 in a VW bus. At 72 I still fill my days with lots of activities, hiking, biking, skiing yoga and gardening. My baby is now 47. Oh yes and I love the Tetons.

    • It sounds like you had (and still have!) an amazing life! Traveling in a VW bus with a baby sounds so fun! And being able to stay so active is what keeps you young. 🙂

  • Caitlin

    Welcome back!! I’m so glad you had such an amazing summer 🙂 !

  • Holly

    Your blog is, by far, my favorite. I’ve missed reading about your garden but this post made up for it, especially those photos of Gemma! I am so envious of your adventures in the wilderness.

    • Thank you for this. And I hope to share more from my recent travels in addition to the usual gardening posts. It’s hard to narrow down my favorite photos when I just want to put them all up! 🙂

  • Joanne Toft

    What a summer! Excited to see the new book and glad to have you back at the blog. Any good idea for beets (that are not so large). I have a lot right now and am thinking they would be a great addition to the Thanksgiving feast.

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I recently returned from a road trip around the Southwest and the Rockies, two weeks spent visiting family in Nevada,...

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