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Gardening in the Frigid North

by: Jill Richardson

Fri Aug 15, 2014 at 21:48:58 PM PDT

After moving from California to Wisconsin, I decided to start a garden ASAP. Why ASAP? Because if I don't do it now, I can't do it until the spring. I mean, I'm sure I can plant garlic in October to harvest next summer, and I can plant a cover crop of some sort... but if I want to harvest something before 2015, I better get planting now. And for some things, it's still too late.

Even so, gardening here is like night and day from California. My entire world has turned upside down, garden-wise. For example: If I put worms in my compost bin, will they freeze and die during the winter? I don't know the answer. I have a hunch that with enough mass, a compost pile could generate enough heat to keep worms alive through the winter, but how big does it have to be to do that? My new one isn't the generally accepted 3x3x3 size that a pile ought to be, since it's just a little bin outside my door. The exact size my worm bin has always been... in California. Where it doesn't freeze all winter long.

Here are some thoughts.

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Keeping the Lights On

by: Jill Richardson

Fri Aug 15, 2014 at 12:15:55 PM PDT

You might have noticed that this blog was down for the past few weeks. What happened? Quite simple. The bill came due and I didn't have the cash. I hopefully will in the near future - that's why I'm going to a grad school where I've got free tuition and guaranteed funding for 5 years - but I don't start getting paid for being a TA til October 1, and I just moved from California to Wisconsin, which wasn't cheap. I mean, it was as cheap as I could make it, staying in Motel 6's and only taking what I could fit in my car, but it still cost something. Plus today's fun: taking the cat to the vet since she keeps peeing outside her box. Cross your fingers that she isn't diabetic. Whatever that would cost, I can't afford it.

An angel swooped in and paid the $60 owed on this blog, which is why it's up and running again, but it costs $15/mo and they bill me monthly. I just received a bill for August. I'm going to try to stay current with the bills, which will be easier once I start getting paid regularly from my teaching assistantship. This month's going to be rough financially, thanks to the move. If anyone reads and appreciates this blog, or perhaps writes on it and gets value from that, you can help keep the blog up by sponsoring it for a month.

If you would like to sponsor the blog for a month, you can send me money on Paypal to the email address OrangeClouds115 at gmail dot com, and I will send it directly to the blog people as payment. As a thank you, I would love to recognize you by name on the blog or post an ad of your choosing (it can be for a product but it can also be for an event, a website, or just a bit of text saying whatever the heck you want) on the top left corner of the blog for the month.


Discuss :: (1 Comments)

Backpacking Food: Successes and Failures

by: Jill Richardson

Fri Jul 25, 2014 at 13:00:44 PM PDT

I recently posted about my attempt to eat "real food" while backpacking for 4 days in Yosemite. I feel a follow-up is in order.
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The Best Way to Hike Mt. Whitney

by: Jill Richardson

Mon Jul 14, 2014 at 15:53:33 PM PDT

This past week, I hiked to the top of Mt. Whitney. Depending on who you talk to, it is either 14,496 ft, 14,497 ft, 14,505 ft, or 14,508 ft. No matter what, it's the highest peak in the lower 48 states. And it requires no technical climbing or mountaineering skills to get to the top. Which is why people come from all over the world to hike it.

I think that's the wrong reason to do the trail. Don't hike it because it's the tallest; hike it because it is GORGEOUS. It's an incredibly pleasant, relatively easy trail (with the exception of a part near the top), and it's a really worthwhile hike even if you don't plan to go to the top.

Read on to find out why most people hike Whitney the wrong way (in my opinion) and how to do it right.

Mt. Whitney
Whitney's summit is smack in the middle of this pic.

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Yosemite Wildflowers

by: Jill Richardson

Mon Jul 07, 2014 at 15:28:24 PM PDT

I'm told that this was a lousy year for wildflowers thanks to the drought. It was certainly a lousy year for waterfalls. On the flipside, there were fewer mosquitoes than usual (don't worry, there were still plenty and they ate well this weekend).

Lousy or not, the wildflower display was spectacular. Here are my photos. They are mostly taken at altitudes ranging between 7000-8000 feet, although a few come from lower altitudes as I descended the Yosemite Falls Trail. We backpacked from Porcupine Flats at Tioga Rd, past Yosemite Falls toward Eagle Peak, and then backtracked to the Yosemite Falls Trail, taking that down to Yosemite Lodge in the valley. I also did a day hike to North Dome and hiked along Indian Ridge and on the trail toward Eagle Peak.

Trip 2 Group Photo
Here we all are, ready to go!

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Putting It All Together: Backpacking Meal Planning

by: Jill Richardson

Thu Jun 26, 2014 at 10:23:38 AM PDT

As always, attempting to eat real food while backpacking is an uphill battle. To date, I've only done overnight backpacks, never multi-day trips. I've also never ventured into bear country. But I am about to do both.

There are some things that work in hiking and backpacking, until they don't. My old hiking boots and insoles were fine, until I began doing longer hikes and carrying a 20 lb pack on my back. Then I got tendinitis. Bringing fresh fruit and peanut butter sandwiches works on an overnight trip. For a longer trip, you can bring them for the first day - but after that you need a different plan. And don't even get me started on bathroom strategies that work for the very short term but prove catastrophic if attempted on longer hikes.

Thus, my overnight trips prepare me to a certain extent for my upcoming trip to Yosemite, but I'm basically wading into unfamiliar territory. And I'm almost guaranteed to be the only one in the group who doesn't simply pull out a plastic bag of freeze-dried god knows what, pour boiling water in, eat it, and then pack away the bag as trash. At the end of the meal, I'm the only one with dirty dishes. So here's my plan.

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Camp Food Product Review: Larabar, Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Flavor

by: Jill Richardson

Tue Jun 24, 2014 at 14:35:48 PM PDT

Prior to a long hike, I ran to the store for energy bars and went with the brand that was cheapest, thanks to a sale. In this case, it was the Larabar. I got two flavors, Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip, and a chocolate coconut flavor. The latter did not taste good. The former was delicious. I went back and bought about 10 of them.

But how does it stack up nutritionally?

The following nutritional recommendations are made assuming one is doing strenuous exercise for several hours. In fact, if you are sitting on your tush at home, then following this advice would be very bad for you.

My backpacking class recommends energy bars that are no more than 8 to 10g protein and no more than 4g fat per 230 calories. It also recommends 5g or fewer of fiber - and says to drink lots of water with your bar. The upshot of all of this is that your body isn't doing much in the way of digestion while you exercise, so you want to give it an easy job (i.e. refined carbs).

  • Product: Larabar
  • Flavor: Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip
  • Price per bar: $.99 on sale
  • Selling Points: Gluten free, non-GMO, kosher, with fair trade chocolate. NOT organic.
  • Weight: 45g
  • Calories: 220
  • Protein: 6g (good)
  • Fat: 11g (way too high)
  • Fiber: 3g (good)
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Trail Eats

by: Jill Richardson

Mon Jun 16, 2014 at 18:04:49 PM PDT

I don't know about you, but my entire mindset as an adult and even before that has been about limiting my calorie intake, limiting the calorie dense foods I consume, and limiting the amount of refined carbs I eat. And throw in limiting salt and NOT drinking my calories. I don't always succeed at this, and I have several pounds of fat on my body to prove it, but I try.

With that kind of a mindset, it's a bit disconcerting to switch gears and plan what to eat on a long hike or an overnight backpack trip.

All of a sudden, you're burning 1000 or 2000 calories per day by hiking (or more even) and you NEED to eat a lot of calories. In fact, it's dangerous not to. You're losing salt through your sweat. And you might even feel nauseated or not very hungry while you are exerting yourself. Digesting protein, fat, and complex carbohydrates isn't easy, so refined carbs and sugars are the way to go. And, for a backpack, whole foods like fruit can be heavy - not to mention perishable if it's a longer trip - so now you're really limited to the stuff that you normally try to avoid eating. In fact, suddenly drinking your calories sounds like a downright great idea!

I'm interested what others eat in such a situation.

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San Jacinto, Sort Of

by: Jill Richardson

Sat Jun 14, 2014 at 23:59:18 PM PDT

Yesterday I hiked up most of Mt. San Jacinto. It's the second tallest mountain in southern California, located in between Idyllwild and Palm Springs, and it stands at 10,843 ft. From the peak, you can see all the way to the Salton Sea. Or, I should say, from near the peak, because I did not get to the peak.

Yesterday I learned a very important lesson. There are times when you are aiming to hit the summit and, at a certain point, you need to realize that you aren't going to the summit and your new goal is to save your own behind and get off the mountain while you can. Which I did. I was 0.3 mi from the summit when I turned around.

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Weight Loss, Diet, Exercise, and a Thank You

by: Jill Richardson

Wed Jun 11, 2014 at 22:50:57 PM PDT

Since I moved to San Diego, I've gained 50 lbs. That's five-oh. And I'm 5'3". I came here weighing less than I usually do, but then I got a job at a bakery, gained it all back, and then kept going.

This year, I've started losing it again. I don't know what I weigh. I don't own a scale. But I do know that I now fit into a dress I haven't worn since 2007. And a male acquaintance I ran into this week was totally checking me out all of a sudden. One person I had met once before and ran into again said she didn't even recognize me. And I know that my body feels GREAT all the time, and I'm suddenly capable of doing amazing things I couldn't do before, like going on 11 mile hikes up steep mountains while carrying a heavy pack on my back.

So this blog post is about what happened. And it's also a thank you to someone who deserves a lot of credit for helping me find my passion and believing in myself.

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Two Kickass Southern California Hikes

by: Jill Richardson

Mon Jun 09, 2014 at 12:50:33 PM PDT

In the past week, I've done two extremely strenuous hikes. Not the hardest hikes around in absolute terms (Google "Cactus to Clouds") but strenuous in terms of long mileage and very steep terrain combined with hot weather and little shade.

The first was El Cajon Mountain at El Capitan Open Space Preserve in Lakeside, CA. This hike is notorious for its difficulty and some say it's the hardest hike in San Diego county. Around here, we often call it El Capitan, since we have a city called El Cajon, and calling it that might be confusing. I realize that, for non-San Diegans, El Capitan might refer to the place of the same name at Yosemite. So, FYI, that's not what I'm talking about.

The second was Mt San Antonio, more commonly referred to as Mt Baldy. It's located in the Angeles National Forest, in the town of Mt Baldy, more commonly known as "Baldy Village." Details and photos below.

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A Personal Update

by: Jill Richardson

Sat Jun 07, 2014 at 00:51:07 AM PDT

If you're a reader of this blog, you know that I've long since abandoned the agriculture and food policy mission of the blog that it was founded to fulfill. That's not because I stopped caring about the subject. It's because I used to work full-time in software for my income and I wrote for fun. Now I write for my living and can't afford to do it here for free. And I don't generally re-post my articles here because it feels too much like bragging and self-promotion to me. So what I put on the blog is just for fun, for me. Stuff I can't get paid to write elsewhere. If others find it enjoyable, great. But if you don't, I'm not offended. (That said, this blog is set up in a way that allows anyone to post on it, and I pay quite a bit of money each year for the blog platform to allow that. If you've got something to share about food, agriculture, or anything else related - PLEASE post on it!)

I've got an upcoming change in my life. I'm entering a PhD program in sociology at UW-Madison. That means moving to Wisconsin.  

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Redwoods and Tendinitis

by: Jill Richardson

Tue May 20, 2014 at 13:41:15 PM PDT

I'm just back from a trip up the coast to Monterey, and I took advantage of the opportunity to do a bit of hiking in Big Sur. About Big Sur, I must say: I now get what all the hype is about. Yes, it's amazing. Go there.

Central California Coast

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Sustainable Food From Celebrity Chefs

by: Jill Richardson

Sun May 18, 2014 at 17:17:33 PM PDT

I'm not exactly into the cult of celebrity chefs, but after eating their food at the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Cooking for Solutions event, I must say: I'm a believer.

All I can compare the experience to is Katniss going to the Capital on her victors tour and being so overloaded with the most amazing food she's ever eaten that she could only eat one bite of each food and she still got full before she tasted most of it. THAT is what happened, when I had the opportunity to eat sustainable food prepared by the likes of Hugh Acheson and other apparently famous chefs I'd mostly never heard of before because I live in a bubble.

I found it utterly inspiring that celebrity chefs, as drivers of our food culture, have embraced sustainability and are imparting it to Americans on the TV machine and in their restaurants. This is particularly so for seafood, since we eat the vast majority of seafood at restaurants, not at home. If you want Americans to eat sustainable seafood, then you need to look at restaurant cuisine. And these chefs are making it happen in a delicious way.

Food pornography below. Viewer discretion advised.

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Another Hike, A Few More Wildflowers

by: Jill Richardson

Sun May 11, 2014 at 00:43:58 AM PDT

A friend and I hiked about 4 mi of Noble Canyon today. It's up on Mt. Laguna in Cleveland National Forest. We're now in the last phase of wildflower season, which is both sad and great, because this is when some of my very favorite flowers appear. Noble Canyon is a 10 mi trail that people often hike or bike one way. That involves 2 cars, one parked at either end. As you go, you go through many different altitudes and ecosystems, which makes it a beautiful and interesting hike.

To avoid the need for 2 cars, we just did a 4 mi out and back (a total of 8 mi) starting from the top. The bottom of the trail begins with chaparral before going into oak woodland, and finally up to pines, bay laurels, and black oaks. By starting at the top, we skipped right to the pines. In my view, we were richly rewarded for it, because the flowers were stunning. See below...

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