I don’t know about you, but lately I’ve been looking for distractions. How is it possible to follow the daily news and not need them? So here are a few of my current distractions, ones that help pleasantly while away a few shutdown hours.
The Tony Hillerman Navajo tribal police series. I’m halfway through the first book, The Blessing Way, and I’m really enjoying it. I get a kick out of recognizing some of the places where the story is set, and I like the dialogue of the Navajo characters – it is full of respect between generations, even when there is disagreement. The details about ceremony and song are a plus. I think there are quite a few books in this series, so I’m looking forward to spending more time down in the desert Southwest.
The Adrian McKinty series about a Northern Irish Catholic policeman, Sean Duffy, serving in the RUC during the 1980s. I think I’ve now read all the books so far, and given I remember many of the events used as a backdrop for the crime stories, it’s like a strange trip down teenage memory lane. McKinty uses musical references from the time pretty frequently – I often have to follow up a musical lead after reading, see if the tunes were as good, or bad, as the musical snob policeman thinks. It’s a matter of (poor?!) taste. The dialogue is often witty, black humour in dark times, and the frenemy relationships across the divide are interesting.
Alright, away from the book reports. How about my exercise regime? That’s a scary distraction! I’ve been doing some very heavy lifting in the garden, or what is better described as my orchard. Yes, I have an orchard. I was eating an apple and one of the seeds fell on the floor. I picked it up before Scout could snag it, and decided I’d plant the seed. This is what boredom does. I planted it in an empty egg container. Daily watering and conversations worked, as I now have an apple tree. See picture below. Yes it is a tree. Let’s not argue.
It’s important to have long term and realistic plans, to think beyond the crisis, and the plan here is to make an apple pie using my home grown apples. If you’re free that day, it’ll be baked on 15 September 2030. Please do drop by for a slice of pie. Oh, c’mon, that’s realistic. I have an orchard now. Let’s not argue.
I get the sense that these distractions aren’t really holding your attention? Are you looking for a distraction to get away from here? I get it. I’ll stop now – I have to tend to the orchard anyway, you understand how it takes quite a chunk of my time and physical energy – and perhaps I’ll post some more handy distractions next week? I have dozens…
Thanks for reading, stay safe, and enjoy your weekend!
Soup, of course! More about the soup below. I know, you want to bail out now – but then you’ll never know about the soup. It’ll eat away at you…
Did you really think it was beer? It’s not like this blog posts a seemingly endless stream of beer photos.
We walk past this chalkboard at least once a day, and if the current specials aren’t too inspiring, I find the soup of the day makes me smile.
At PlaidCamper Towers, yesterday’s soup was a rather good homemade tomato and lentil, cooked from scratch with love and care, and the need to do anything except read another online article about how to improve oneself during the enforced sabbatical. I mean, if I read one more thing about how making your own soup from scratch with love and care will help you cope with hours indoors, and help me reach my potential, why, I’ll, I’ll, I’ll start writing about how making soup can help while away hours spent indoors. Is it too early for beer yet?
This blog is meant to be about the adventures of an almost outdoorsman, but given the current situation, I may have to rename it. Ooh, rebranding, isn’t that a thing, like conservatives suddenly loving public health, and finding the magic money tree is actually a magic money forest?! Time to start over, a new identity. Maybe, the adventures of a confirmed indoorsman? Indoorsman – is that a word? Adventures in dusting behind the books, vacuuming the baseboards twice a week, sweeping the little deck, and some updates on how the paint is drying where we’ve fixed a couple of drywall dings. I might even start some deliberate dinging of drywall just so I can fix it, and then write about it. Did I mention yesterday’s soup already?
Anyway, I’ll leave it for this week, as I’ve got to go and find the hammer, plaster, paint and brushes Mrs. PC hid while I was writing this.
I do hope you’re keeping well. The current crisis is very serious, and frightening for so many. I admire and thank all the people who are doing all they can to keep what is necessary going. Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend.
Or, in my case, being something of an introvert, anti-social distancing. Silver linings…
Clearly there is plenty to be concerned about presently, what with Covid-19 and the toilet roll fights in supermarkets. They cut those scenes from “Mad Max” didn’t they? I imagine John Woo or Sam Peckinpah could have had a slow motion field day with scraps and shreds of toilet paper floating through fight scenes of suburban scrappers going toe to toe over the last packet of spaghetti. Pasta pugilists…
Back to the social distancing. I don’t mind if that’s the way it has to be. Avoid large crowds and social gatherings? Oh, alright. Drive thru virus testing, then a quick stop at the drive thru growler refill station. Doesn’t sound too bad.
Oh gosh, I just sneezed. I’ll keep this brief, as I suddenly feel the need to google the early onset symptoms. All photographs this week are from Florencia once again, and if you’ve got to be socially distant, this seems as good a place as any!
Flippancy aside, please be well, look after yourselves, family, friends and neighbours, and remember pasta shouldn’t be overcooked and is best enjoyed with a glass of red wine. Or two.
Other than a brief snowy interlude, the past two months have seen rain, rain, and rain. So much rain! Then, the other day, there was a hint of sun, a short glimpse of spring, so we made the most of a lunchtime trip to the beach.
Although the temperature was actually colder than the norm – according to the reading on the Jeep, it was 2C – it felt warm as we drove off, sun streaming in through the windows. I had to blow dust and cobwebs off the sunglasses. This was sunshine!
Scout was very happy, nose at the small gap in the rear window, enjoying the warmed up damp scents wafting in as we headed to the beach.
The beach! It looked like a water colour painting, where an enthusiastic artist had loaded the brush and said “this is going to look wet!” It did, with the sun slightly hidden behind an offshore haze and the tide in retreat. The blue skies were behind us and above the trees as we sat on just the right log, and enjoyed just the right soup. Homemade tomato and lentil, if you were wondering. Not Scout’s favourite, so perfect for a beach outing, where the dog can dig under the log, and you enjoy your soup dog nose free…
What a break, what a delight, and how it seems a distant memory already. As I write this, the rain has returned, but the promise of a few sunnier days is in the two week forecast. We have our checklist – log, dog, and soup! I’d best start cooking…
Thanks for reading, and I hope you have a wonderful weekend!
It’s almost Canada Day already?! Monday July 1st, if you were wondering…
Canada! It’s not a perfect country, not by a long way, but in the years that we’ve lived here, it’s always seemed like a country striving to improve. Much more needs to be done related to environmental concerns, and more to eliminate poverty and raise the standard of living for all residents and citizens. There is a challenge in achieving a successful and sustaining economy that isn’t simply a resource extraction economy. Why further erode the land, air and water that sustains us just to make more money than a person could possibly need, and at the health expense of fellow citizens?
Warts and all, I can’t imagine living anywhere else, and Canada Day is a time for us to feel grateful about being Canadian. Our citizenship here is something we don’t take for granted.
It can sometimes seem the world is falling into madness, what with demands for walls, the deliberate undermining of alliances that were originally made to prevent conflict, and what feels like an unhappy lurch to the right and a tendency to blame everyone else at the same time as failing to take responsibility or action for planetary woes. Goodness, long sentence there. In that light, Canada makes a sort of sense to me. As I said, not perfect, but not likely to cause global ripples – or worse – due to destructive childish tantrums designed to fulfil the narcissistic need for attention at any cost. I’d better stop with these long sentences, and the content, not good for anyone’s wellbeing.
Yes, enough of all that. Every day is Canada Day around here, and that makes me (a bit of a curmudgeon from time to time) smile. All the photos are images from the past week, and they have a Canadian flavour – mostly because they were taken in Canada!
If you’re Canadian, know a Canadian, have been to Canada, want to live in Canada, or simply enjoy hockey and maple syrup, then happy Canada Day to you for Monday!
Thanks for reading, and I hope you have a wonderful weekend!
It’s been a busy end of school season wrap up, with exams, transition plans, and celebrations to mark achievements in an academic year well spent.
Yesterday was a beach day, with students, families and teachers having a few hours down by the water, some play time and easy company before all leave and head off into summer, a year older and a year wiser. Certainly older…
I’m looking forward to a busy and relaxed summer, if both can happen at the same time. The twin track approach will see me back in Blighty for a swift visit, a chance to catch up with one brother, one father and one daughter in little more than a week. Then it’s back to the island for a few weeks, with beach walks, paddling, maybe a few tent nights if we can find some quiet spots, and, fingers crossed, some time learning to build log cabins in remote parts. Mid August, we’ll be on the road, nothing too long, for a visit to Alberta, just to be sure friends, lakes, mountains, and a few big city haunts are all still there.
I love being in education, and especially in my current position, finding myself working in schools, the community and (best of all, I can’t lie about this) out in the backcountry. If I ever found myself in an occupation that demanded I work for pay over the summer months, then all would not be well. I did fake being a chef for a couple of summers when we lived in France – I was younger, leaner and hungrier back then – but those few years aside, I’ve had summers off, and for that I’m most grateful! (Apologies to readers who do work summers, and a tip of the hat – like that helps…)
Keeping it brief, as time is short this week, having spent longer than usual days preparing for and enjoying an education celebration. This was a lovely evening where many citizens and residents over the bay were recognized for educational achievements – from pre-school through to post secondary and then all manner of lifelong learning.
A few weeks back, we arranged to have another gourmet cookout with Wayne from Tofino Photography. Our destination was Second Bridge, and if you need to find it, go down that logging road after the junction, bounce and jolt up past First Bridge, and then…
…well, if I told you where precisely, then it might get crowded in the future. But rest assured it’s out there, and you’ll know you’re close when the road comes to an end because the bridge is out.
A quiet spot – we were told it can get busy, and certainly used to be a touch rowdy with party people on long weekends before the road was closed – it made a good place to have a fire and roast some hot dogs. The weekend had been warm and sunny the day before we went, but a change came, with grey skies, lower temperatures, and even a hint of rain. This seemed to have kept people away, and we only encountered a handful of visitors.
One couple had been camping overnight just down the beach. They chatted a bit, and Wayne shared a few stories, and some tips in the event of a cougar encounter (there had been some sightings elsewhere along the lake) and mere minutes after that, the young couple had packed up and disappeared. I don’t think it was the cougar info…
It left an empty beach for us to enjoy, and we had a fine time cooking and eating. Wayne brought high end hot dogs and slices of key lime pie from SoBo. Excellent choice, and we had to be quick about it, because Scout sure seemed to take to the pie.
We didn’t see a cougar, or a bear, and thankfully the black flies didn’t follow us down to the beach. They were lurking when we parked up, but there was enough breeze to keep bugs at bay.
A wildlife feature for the afternoon? The hundreds and hundreds of geese passing over in long skeins high above us. We honestly could not count them, but what a sight to see – and hear! Wave after wave after wave.
Wayne knows the area pretty well, and he told us about the great camping spots to be discovered along the shore, and how they can only be approached from the water. They sound rather wonderful, and a compelling reason to return, drop a canoe with camping gear into the water, and spend a little more time out by the bridge and beyond.
I don’t know when our next cookout adventure will be or where, but it’s something to look forward to, likely after the summer visitors have headed home and it’s a bit quieter. I do know Wayne has set the gourmet bar pretty high with that key lime pie!
I’m not a hunter, never have been and it isn’t likely I’ll start hunting now – although I’ll admit it is a useful set of skills to have, come the apocalypse. (Would we be able to tell if there’s an apocalypse? I suppose the news would be a tad cheerier…)
Food security has been something that keeps cropping up – perhaps a growing cause for concern reflecting uncertain times? Zombies aside, I’ll stick with doing what most of us do, and track down my food in stores, hoping that the bulk of it has been produced ethically. We are currently living in an area that has, should the lights go out for the final time, reasonable food security, at least for those in the know…
The recent wilderness trip I accompanied did have a hunting component. Participants are encouraged to produce and provide for themselves and their community, learning and applying skills taught by elders and mentors, and ensuring they know how to survive and even flourish on their traditional lands.
I was excited and nervous about the hunting. Personally, I’d rather not be around guns, and young people with guns, even when they are being monitored closely by trained experts. However, I could see the importance of teaching and learning these skills, and the youth involved were excited to learn.
So let me get the gory part out of the way first – the only animal shot and killed on this trip was a duck. It was shot on the boat ride out to the camp. The duck supplemented a rice and vegetable dish later in the weekend. The decision was made that one duck was enough – there were plenty of other ducks in range throughout the journey, but the lead hunter emphasised this was about eating, not sport.
Students learned how to prepare it for cooking and eating. They were very respectful and thankful to the duck, and a prayer was made reflecting this. Almost everyone had a small piece of roasted duck, myself included, and the young man who made the shot was thoughtful about what he’d done. He didn’t want to kill it, but understood that to eat meat, a creature had to die. He certainly wasn’t boastful about shooting the duck.
On the morning spent hunting, we saw deer tracks, many bear tracks, and plenty of grouse tracks, but nothing else. No actual animals were sighted, but students learned how to spot likely areas for future hunts, and where to set up in these areas. Our lead hunter did draw a bead on a seal as we headed back, and I have to admit to being relieved when he said the distance was too great to be certain of a clean shot. The size and scale of the animal shouldn’t make any difference to how I felt, but seeing a duck shot and prepared was probably easier to experience than if it had been a seal.
If the trip had been for trophy hunting, there’s no way I’d have gone along, and, as indicated above, I was (silently) rooting for the animals. That said, the whole process was fascinating and thought provoking. I’ll never be a hunter, but I can see the importance of hunting in traditional communities.
I’ll leave it there, and start to make tracks towards a long weekend. Thanks for reading and, as always, please feel free to share a story or leave a comment.
Have a wonderful weekend!
PS All the photos posted here were taken last week on a cold and sunny Sunday morning on or near Combers beach.
Huh?! We took a very quick camping trip to Green Point a couple of weeks ago. We wanted to find out how Scout would fare in a tent – or how we would fare with her at close quarters in a tent, and if she’d be a happy camper…
Well, we needn’t have worried! Sticks and branches to chew? Check! Other dogs to grumble at? Check! Tasty tidbits that “fell” off our plates? Check! Scout didn’t wake up at the crack of dawn? Check! (Phew!)
Two nights of camping, and a chance to try out a new tent. A new tent? Isn’t your old tent a recent addition? Yes, and it is/was a perfectly fine tent, but some #*@* broke into our storage locker and made off with bits and pieces of our camping gear, including the flysheet. Not sure when the crime took place, but I’m glad I was packing the day before, and not the day we set off, so had just enough time to stop and pick up a new tent. Just because somebody else made a poor choice, this wasn’t going to spoil our fun – but it did put an unwanted dent in our bank balance.
Anyhow, we had a fine time, glass half full and all that. On the Saturday evening, Wayne from Tofino Photography joined us for a gourmet meal of hotdogs, chips, and pumpkin pie. Gourmet?! Not so much, but food does taste better cooked outdoors, and I have to say, store bought pumpkin pie is one tough product. It was tossed about in the back of the Jeep for a couple of days, buried under loose gear and other edibles, yet maintained shape and flavour when we finally got round to eating it. Scout would have had several slices, but not if she wanted to share a tent with us overnight.
We had great weather on Saturday, and had hoped to have a dry spell all the way through to Sunday, but it wasn’t to be. We had to break camp in steady rain, but can report our new tent, bought in something of a rush and unresearched, was very much a dry on the inside tent. Mind you, our previous not so old tent was also a sterling dry on the inside tent. Alright, I’ll get over it, glass half full…
Now we know Scout is a happy camper, we will plan trips further afield to quieter and more remote spots. And when Wayne joins us next time, we’ll go a few steps better than “gourmet” hotdogs – the weekend above was Canadian Thanksgiving, and I think the sausages contained turkey, but apart from the unbreakable pie, we might have committed a culinary crime…
I’m heading out to an off the grid location for a few days, and will catch up with your blogs when I get back next week. Thanks for reading and have a wonderful weekend!
After recent political events, it would be easy (and understandable) to feel somewhat crushed, but that’s not going to help in the longer term. So my period of moping is now over, and it’s time to look up, be determined to focus on what is good and what is valuable all around us. An unpleasant event has come to pass, yet caring folks will continue to speak up and out against bigotry, and seek to find genuine solutions to real problems. I forget where I read it and who said it, but there was a commentary on recent events that said the answers are likely to be found in a series of small solutions instead of one giant fix. Well, the world does appear to be in one giant fix, that’s for sure, but good people will fight to produce the series of small solutions. After all, you have to hope…
– Yeah, alright, but why squashed, PlaidCamper?
Well, because my moping period found me back in the kitchen, a place I find great comfort in during the good times, and even greater comfort during the less good times. If this blog wasn’t OldPlaidCamper, it could have been OldFakeChefDude. I’m certainly an almost outdoorsman, and most definitely an almost chef. I’ve faked it and earned a (meagre) living in a few kitchens in the past. The stories I could tell (but won’t, because you probably enjoy eating in restaurants, and I don’t want to be arrested…)
– Yeah, alright, but why squashed, PlaidCamper?
I was cooking with squash! A comfort food if there ever was one, and one of my favourites. Roast it, steam it, mash it, sautée it, make soup from it, but eat it up, with all that vitamin goodness and colour on a plate. Mmm, squash. Acorn, butternut, crook neck, kabocha, pumpkin (least favourite), delicata, spaghetti, and more. Food list poetry? I think so.
There are so many ways to enjoy squash (my meatatarian brothers insist a squash is best enjoyed when left to rot atop a compost heap – food heathens! – although they always dig into the butternut and black bean chilli…) and here are two ways with squash that we’ve cooked recently:
(Really? Chef ego much? These kitchen primadonnas…)
This first one is great for if you’re camping. Get a good campfire going (glowing at the base) and keep it stoked.
Put diced squash, halved mushrooms, quartered shallots, whole almonds, broccoli florets, chilli flakes and a teaspoon of ground cumin onto a sheet of aluminum foil. Add a generous glug of good olive oil. Give it a mix and then fold up your foil into a parcel.
You might want to double wrap it if the foil is the thin stuff cheapskates like me buy. False economy. Place on the hot metal plate or over the griddle. Turn the parcel from time to time to allow even cooking. Trust your sense of smell – you’ll know when it’s ready! Burn your fingers unwrapping the parcel (you won’t mind because it’ll taste so good) and enjoy the contents. Delicious campfire fare!
The care and attention I’ve given to quantities and timings might be an indication as to why I’m not a chef any more. I can create and follow precision recipes, but mostly enjoy the slapdash approach. Closer to Jamie than Heston. To make up for the lack of detail in the first recipe – recipe?! – I’ll simply copy/paste the second (and add the link, because the other recipes on the page are also quite wonderful) from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall:
Pappardelle with squash and sage
About 750g squash, peeled, deseeded and cut into 2-3cm cubes 4-6 fat garlic cloves, skin on, lightly squashed Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper 4 tbsp rapeseed or olive oil 75g walnuts, very roughly chopped (optional) not optional, Hugh, essential 250g pappardelle (or other pasta) 50g unsalted butter 15-20 sage leaves, cut into ribbons Finely grated parmesan or hard goat’s cheese, to serve
Heat the oven to 190C/375F/gas mark 5. Put the squash in a roasting tin, add the garlic and some salt and pepper, trickle over the oil and toss together. Roast for 45 minutes, stirring once or twice during cooking, until the squash is completely soft and starting to caramelise. Add the nuts for the last 10 minutes, taking care they don’t burn.
When the squash is about halfway cooked, bring a large pan of water to a boil, salt it well and add the pasta. Cook for the time suggested on the packet, then drain. While the pasta is cooking, heat the butter very gently in a small pan. When foaming, add the sage and cook over a low heat, without letting the butter brown, for three minutes. Turn off the heat.
Toss the sage butter, the hot squash and walnuts into the pasta – add any pan juices, too, as well as the garlic, provided it’s not too burned. Season to taste and transfer to warmed dishes. Finish with more pepper and serve with parmesan for people to help themselves.
A great one to try out over the coming winter at a cabin. Or at home. The recipe is from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall Squash Recipes – go on, follow the link, read the others, you’ll be glad you did.
Old Hugh has some amazing recipes. I first heard about him many years ago when a friend was telling me about roadkill pie. Retching noises. Personally, if I ran over a squash I’d be mortified, but it could be worse. Even back then, falling wildlife populations in the UK meant you’d most likely run over an unfortunate hedgehog. There are recipes for clay baked hedgehog, but you’d really rather not…right? Stick with the squash.
Well, not a hugely outdoorsy post this week – thanks for your patience – but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed sharing some anti-moping activity we’ve been engaged in.
Thanks for reading, please feel free to share a recipe or anti-moping technique, and have a wonderful weekend!
As an extra treat for the curious-minded, here is a link to a fun article about Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (and it mentions his connections to roadkill cuisine, but that really isn’t what he’s about!) More about Hugh FW