Why am I starting off a story about backpacking with a nearly nude picture of myself? Because when you’re in the middle of the wild with no one else around, skinny dipping in an alpine lake is something you have to check off the list at least once, if not every time. It is, quite indescribably, one of the highest peaks of life!
A few weeks ago we went on our first backpacking trip of the year, a three-day jaunt through the John Muir Wilderness in the Eastern Sierra Nevada. I used to tell friends that if they wanted to witness the beauty, majesty and solitude of the Sierra, they had to work for it — hiking for miles to escape the crowds and reach the solace of stunning places they normally only saw in the movies. And for the most part, this is still true; the full experience of the mountains can only be found with a pack on your back and a little huffing and puffing to get there.
Just off Highway 395 from one of those blink-and-you’ll-miss-it sort of towns, you can reach one of the most marvelous wildernesses the High Sierra has to offer in less than a mile with very little elevation gain. In fact, it’s almost a sin how easily you can access the alpine grandeur of this area.
Today we’re going to dive into the sex life of squash. But it’s not as skeevy as it sounds.
Have you ever wondered why we usually only see the male blossoms of squash (the ones with the long stems) at farmers’ markets? Or why some flowers turn into cucumbers, while others fall off the vine? Or why a corn on the cob will have missing kernels on its end? The answer to all this is pollination — or as I like to call it, flower sex.
Bug (short for Bebe pug) is my 11-year-old second-born daughter. (The first being my 12-year-old pug.) She’s a purebred, born from a line of AKC champion pugs, but with that came the typical hereditary joint diseases of overly bred “perfect” pugs.
Don’t get me wrong; Bug is perfect in every which way and I wouldn’t trade her in for anything. But raising her these last few years, especially, has taught me a lot about dog health and nutrition as both my girls settle into their senior years.
Just before she turned 8, Bug started showing signs of degenerative joint disease. Her hips would give out a little every time she walked. She grew up in one-story homes with hard floors, and after the move to our current house, the split-level rooms and terraced yard seemed to exacerbate her condition.
Over the years, her weak hips eventually gave out and she lost the use of both of her back legs. At home, she moves around by dragging her body with her front legs (she has the strongest front legs of any dog I know!). When she’s out and about, she rolls around in a wheelchair and we can barely keep up with her. I almost expect her wheelchair to have flame decals!
If you just saw her sitting, you wouldn’t know that she had a handicap; she’s full of smiles and high spirits, and doesn’t seem to realize that she can’t walk on all fours like her sister can. She’s still a speedy little thing, especially when it’s meal time or beach day!
The five little things that made my week…
1. A cover has been chosen for my cookbook! (Here’s a sneak peek at the cover shoot we did a few weeks ago… this was only one of a few different ideas we tried.)
I have a new favorite guacamole. It’s hard to pry my greedy hands away from my previous favorite, Grapefruit Guacamole (especially with my garden laden with grapefruits and avocados right now), but I have to say that this concoction kind of tops it.
I’ve always been a fan of cooked avocado (as you might remember from my Huevocate recipe), and grilled avocado simply takes it one step further. Over a hot grate, the flesh turns smoky and savory, almost meaty in flavor. Just a few minutes on each side can elevate raw avocado into its own secret ingredient in a guacamole.
Most of the other ingredients are traditional: garlic, cilantro, jalapeño, red onion, fresh tomatoes, some salt and a healthy squeeze of lime. Mash them all together with avocados hot off the grill, and you end up with a warm, smoky, melt-in-in-your-mouth guacamole that’s as surprising as it is irresistible. You can’t take just one bite.
It’s summer, and for me, that means staying as hydrated as possible during these long sunny days spent outside. I don’t always do the recommended eight glasses of water a day though; sometimes I drink less, depending on where I am and what I’m doing. Did you know that oft-repeated and generally accepted slice of wisdom is actually nothing more than a myth with no medical basis?
Proper hydration relies on several factors, including your age and physical condition, level of activity, intensity of the weather, and what else you’ve been eating or drinking that day. It just makes sense that if you’re hiking at high altitude on a hot summer day, you’ll need to drink more water than when you’re just sitting in front of your computer in an air-conditioned office all afternoon.
CamelBak gets it, and the company teamed up with the University of Connecticut’s Korey Stringer Institute to create a hydration calculator that helps you determine your ideal level of hydration. (My average results recommended 1.5 liters of water per day, which is actually less than eight glasses.)
You know what else CamelBak gets? That most of us with these types of water pitchers — the ones that filter water from the tap — don’t like waiting around for them to fill up when we’re thirsty.
So from this company, a true innovator in the industry and the maker of my favorite hydration pack when I’m out adventuring, comes a household item that anyone will find useful.
Remember the Three Sisters Garden? It’s been going strong since spring, and this week, the first of those plants are starting to peter out… The corn’s been picked, the beans are seeding, and the squash are firming up their winter coats for storage.
With our warm weather this season, my winter squash have all matured earlier than usual. First week of July and they’re already done, leaving the kitchen all Thanksgiving-looking with thick-skinned orange, yellow, and green gourds piled on the counter.
In the garden, I repeat a lot of my favorite crops every summer (the tried-and-true varieties like Dragon Tongue bush beans and Mexican Sour Gherkin cucumbers), but I always grow a few new types of winter squash. I haven’t repeated a winter squash yet in four years. They’re easy to grow, hardy in our climate, and interesting to look at (and by interesting, I mostly mean bizarre if you look at my history of winter squash selections).
This year, the title of “Most Bizarre” goes to these gorgeous Turk’s Turban squash.