Friday, June 26, 2009

We found the lost coast, sadly it is no longer lost...

One of the most beautiful spots of all the California coast (in my mind) is the small area of land west of Highway 1 (yes in one part of California there is a west of Highway 1) called the Lost Coast. It so called because there is no freeway hugging the beach in this area and thanks to this we have relatively few tourists in that area, mostly backpackers and adventurous campers who stray from the highway. This beautiful stretch of coast is so remote and rugged that the people who build highways for a living thought it was to much of a challenge to put a road through, don't we all wish the whole coast was like that? We decided to check out this area as a precursor to a backpacking trip in the coming weeks. We made it out to the Mattole River at the northern end of the preserve. I think we may start here and hike south for a ways and then explore the mountains a bit before heading back. All to be completed in a mere 3 days, hope our hiking shoes are comfy and waterproof! I've backpacked here before but it remains one of the best trips of my life, one I would love to repeat, one I hopefully will get to return to in the next few weeks. Well back to our trip around the lost coast... We stayed at a really nice county park along the Mattole River just inland near Honeydew. This campground surely is a lost jewel. Who knew that a county park could have such a nice campground. It was right on the river and the campsites were really spaced out, if anyone is in the area A.W. Way County Park should be on your list of places to stay. The next day we drove over the mountains to Humboldt Redwoods State Park where there was one or two massive trees. Well maybe like one or two million! We did a small hike and hurried on to the Eel River so we could relax, wash up and get some sun. Instead of going to a known swimming spot we just randomly drove down the highway looking for something that looked promising... and after 4 or 5 stops we found a great spot off 101 that took some work getting down to. It was some random pull off (I wont tell you where) that we hiked through some brush and scolding hot sand to get to that I don't think many other people ever see, unless its from the road. It was a great little spot, couldn't see much of the highway and we knew no one else would make that trip down without us seeing them first. The water was not freezing and the sun was out which made for a delightful few hours. Driving home we started looking for restaurants to eat at and wound up in Myers Flat at this winery called Riverbend Cellars. That was one of those random life encounters where afterwards you say to yourself, what??? We learned the life history of the wine pourer (he's an electrical engineer from Chicago who walked and hitched his way across the US without any money). He was a bit odd but really friendly and the complete opposite of so many wine people in Sonoma and Napa. We lost a bet to him about the distance from Myers Flat to Arcata so we had to buy a bottle of wine but thanks to Nicole's haggling skills we walked away without having to pay a tasting fee. Way to go Honey :)

Monday, June 22, 2009

Searching for the Strawberry

We went for hike up to Strawberry Rock which is just outside of Trinidad and is conveniently located on private logging property. I really don't think they care if people trespass because it is a really popular place to go hiking and I have never heard of someone getting in trouble. Took us awhile to find the actual rock, there are no trail signs and we had no map and no idea where we were going. We just thought well its a rock you can see from the beach lets just go up hill until we find it. After only one turn around we ran into a few other people heading that way (more trespassers) so we tagged along and made it in no time. It was windy and warm at the top with a beautiful view all the way from Trinidad to Arcata and a little north. The ocean was still caked in some fog so the horizon blended into the ocean and was hard to tell them apart. What a great hike! It was pretty secluded because its not an actual park so not to many people know about it, mainly locals, we wouldn't have even found it without someone showing us the way or after many more turnarounds. So if you are ever up in Arcata look up Strawberry Rock, do some trespassing and you wont be sorry!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The realization of an addiction

So I realized that I have an addiction when I went to the nursery today to simply buy a watering spout (we have bugs and got this organic pest control stuff that needs to be poured on the leaves) and some earthworms (for the compost) and I ended up buying 4 more plants, a pot and some more dirt. I can't seem to go to anyplace that sells plants without taking a look at whats there. This time I ended up buying a 7 gallon plastic pot (which was way cheaper than any of the others and is much simpler looking which I like) and some new plants for homemade salsas. I got (from the front to the left) another cilantro, jalapeno, tomatillos and habeneros. These 4 plants plus maybe some tomatoes will make excellent salsa once I find a recipe. Total cost for this little setup = $22, so we had better get a bunch of salsa from it, or maybe next year we will break even since we wont have to rebuy the dirt and the container. I was skeptical at first to buy peppers but the lady at the nursery said that the small peppers like habeneros and jalapenos grow well here, its just the bell peppers that don't. And she said tomatillos love it here!

Thursday, June 11, 2009


I can't believe that we have waited so long to try to make our own sushi. It is so incredibly easy anyone can do it! It was so much cheaper than going to the sushi restaurant, I think total it may have been around 20 bucks and we had a lot of sushi. Not that this will ever replace going out for sushi but it will allow us to satisfy the craving without going broke in the process. We had something like 5 rolls I think, all were vegetarian (next time we'll try getting some fish). We had one roll with carrots, cucumber, pepper and avocado, one with yams, almond butter and pineapple another with pineapple, mango, jalapeno and macadamia nuts. The others I can't remember at this moment but they were awesome as well. I should have written down exactly what was in each, we can't wait to make them again and try new varieties! Oh I almost forgot we also had miso soup, wasabi, edaname and we mixed the Raspberry and Mango infused vodka with Orange Mango juice... wow that was an amazing drink!

Adventures through Southern Humboldt

The Summer Art and Music Festival in Benbow (Southern Humboldt) was held this last weekend. This was my first and Nicole's who knows how many trips to this event. It was a lot of fun and really sunny. We only made it to the last 4 hours or so on Sunday, the event started Saturday morning. There were a few bands that were not all that great and dozens of booths selling neat little trinkets, cloths and handmade art/jewelry. The most interesting aspect of the event I have to admit was simply people watching. There was everyone from predominantly stereotypical Humboldt Hippies to straight from LA people. It was a nice mix and everyone was relaxed and having a good time. We left the event early and headed out for a nice campground and a relaxing evening by the Eel River. The next day we spend lounging around the river in a few different spots and eating and drinking coffee in Garberville. By days end and the drive home we were so relaxed and on a cloud that the drive needed to be stretched for as long as possible. Which is why we drove the entire length of the Avenue of the Giants through the Redwoods. What a beautiful drive. The photo on the top of my page is from a random turn out. All in all a very successful weekend in the sun and by the river!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Exploring the diverse world of Vodka

After a brief talk with my boss at work I thought I would try to make some of my very own homemade extracts. I found a recipe to make vanilla extract that was really simple only time consuming. So I bought some Tahitian vanilla beans and some vodka, combined them and will be letting them soak for the next two months. The vanilla is the two jars on the left, the next is following the same steps just with almonds. I have no idea if this one will work just thought it would be fun to try. After that we have a blend of different herbs, lavender and then St. Johns Wort. The last is a concoction I discovered awhile back. I soaked raspberries and mangoes in vodka for a few days and ended up with infused vodka that tastes amazing, will go great in a mixed drink or a martini. I'm crossing my fingers that this will all work and maybe I will have gifts to send some people.

Friday, June 5, 2009

A touch of sophistication found in a glass

So far this summer it has been a rare treat for Nicole and I to both have time off together. Usually our only days off together have been a short 24 hours where we have to cram in whatever we can before one of us has to go back to work. This past weekend we found ourselves to have 2 full days off together. What to do? Well the weather all over the north coast and as far inland as we could see was to be all foggy, rainy and cold. No good. We had to leave the ocean behind and travel to warmer climates. And thus we found ourselves stumbling into Sonoma County with only a day or two notice crashing in the spare room of our great friends Becca, Jake, Jocelyn and Luna. Thanks a bunch by the way (we love the pictures you took on the camera too). So since the weather was warm and a free slate before us, we decided to live it up and go wine tasting along Highway 12 towards the town of Sonoma. What a perfect day. Weather worked out great, we got to see the sun and feel its warmth. We stopped at 5 wineries including Ledson, Blackstone, Mayo, B.R. Cohn and Valley of the Moon. All of them had great wines and even better atmospheres. Our only complaint was at the Mayo winery. There we were thoroughly snubbed by the wine guy, where we found out there is nothing to do in Humboldt, California is not a big state and that we were "country folk." He talked down to us and spoke to us like we did not know anything. Maybe thats why the place was empty while all the others were packed? After that experience we headed to B.R. Cohn, mainly because a sign on the property said they used sustainable agriculture practices, got to support them then. Wow what a great place! The guy who helped us was incredibly helpful and generous with the pouring. He never spoke down to us and tried to tell us all the wonderful things you could do with each wine and how to enjoy it. Even poured one that he said he didn't like, how truthful. We ended up buying a bottle and hence getting the tasting for free. If anyone is going to purchase some wine B.R. Cohn pinot noir is excellent. Stay away from the pretentious snobs at Mayo. At least until they redeem themselves. Ledson was also great. The brick castle that the winery is in is simply beautiful and the wines were great, though a bit pricey for us. Valley of the Moon was great to, the prices were way more in alignment with our budget and we bought another bottle for our lovely hosts Becca and Jake. This is where Nicole had a bit of a mishap with a wine glass and not a single person noticed, even me. Way to go Nicole :) The other place we went Blackstone was very nice to. A bit more friendly and small scale than Ledson, wine wasn't the greatest but we really liked the winery itself and the grounds. All in all it was a really eventful trip and we really enjoyed ourselves. Im so glad that we got out of town because we came home to rain, thunder and fog. Not bad just nice to see the sun once in a while.

Approaching critical overload!

About 7 weeks ago we planted the garden in our backyard, we packed as many starts as we could into the small area we were given and hoped for the best. Without knowing much about what to put where and next to what I randomly selected plants that I thought would go well next to each other and plopped them in the dirt. I didn't quite think of water requirements for each plant so I hope I didn't put any thirsty ones next to dry lovers. I did however seriously take into consideration how tall each one would get and placed those ones next to other tall ones, so as not to block out any light. I succeeded well in this aspect except for one plant, the chocolate mint. This one was said to grow like a weed, yet it is dwarfed by the 2 sweet peas and the cherry tomato plant next door. Except for the one the rest of the plants are growing extremely tall and full. Everyday I look at the garden it looks more and more crowded and the once abundant free spaces have given way to a battle of each plant to claim its own share of the cloudy sunless sky. The tomato is particularly ruthless and is trying to crowd out the onions and broccoli at the same time! I knew things would start to get crowded, I mean I planted 20 plants in about 18 square feet of dirt, that's not including the 23 that are also in the cinder block holes. I have learned a lot for the next season of planting already. Next summer, I will stake down the cinder blocks to the ground, they are actually not as stable as I thought, a handful of them are always being pushed out by the growing vegetation. The other thought is to keep all tall plants on one side of the garden and the short ones on the other. Oh and some more good points about this garden, we are already seeing some vegetables coming up. The two brocolli both have multiple heads coming up, the strawberries are constantly giving us berries and the lettuce can be cut every week or two if need be.

Freedom Garden

This little plot of dirt surrounded by cinder blocks basking in the sun has taught me a valuable lesson regarding life and food.  I shall no longer take for granted the overly simple act of grocery shopping for I have now planted my own food. I can see all the hard work it takes to bring 1 strawberry to the store and how that 1 strawberry should be cherished and not wasted uselessly. This garden was by no means easy or more cost effective than buying all our own organic veggies. We have spent a good deal of money buying supplies and dirt and even waged outright war on the invading snails who want to eat our rewards! The effort and money has been put in, now time to wait for the sweet benefits of our little plot of land. This garden has given us a starting point to further learn how to support ourselves. Now a 6 foot by 4 foot garden is not nearly enough space to grow all we need but we are learning the tools to one day grow all our own crops and have no more worries about chemicals in our foods, where our food came from or how much energy was input to grow what we are eating. All the energy we want to rely on is our backs, brains and the sun! Heres to hoping everyone has the chance to have a backyard garden and learn a thing or two about plants, food and life.

The Cinder Block Garden and Compost

The Cinder Block Garden and Compost
We are growing Tomatoes, 6 strawberries, 6 garlic, 6 onion, 6 types of lettuce, artichokes, 2 brocolli and 4 cauliflauer

Entry garden

Entry garden
This is a view out our front door where we also have a few plants in pots. Here we have a few more spinach and lettuce plants, 2 pea plants, walking stick kale, rosemary, 2 parsley, cilantro, oregano, lavender, garlic chives, basil (this is our third attempt at Basil, all the others have died now) and some pansies for color.

First Harvest

First Harvest
I know its not much but this is our first harvest from the garden. Can get about 2 full size salads from it.

The Garden Retreat Cottage (Home)

Our home is not just where we sleep, eat and spend the down time of our day. It is a retreat from life and worries, a base camp for our explorations of Arcata and greater Humboldt County. A comfortable nook nestled in a beautiful garden to stage our lives as we see fit, free from the constraints of neighbors and lousy room mates. Free from the sound of passing vehicles and honking horns. Free from mean landlords and ugly parking lots. From our garden retreat we cannot see nor hear the road and are thus slightly removed from life outside, even if for just the moment. We are completely content in our 300 square foot castle, not cramped, not looking for anything better and not looking to move away for the time being. I love this cottage because it is the first place I have felt like was a home to me and not just simply a house in a long time. I live with a beautiful woman I call shmoo who is clean, thinks like me and likes my cooking. What more could I ask for?


View through the garden

Garden Cottage

Garden Cottage
Inside our castle