Aposted by Janet Chui 2013-08-02 11:41:15
Aposted by Janet Chui 2013-08-02 11:41:12
Aposted by Janet Chui 2013-08-02 11:41:08
Aposted by Janet Chui 2013-08-02 11:41:04
Aposted by Janet Chui 2013-08-02 11:40:58
More news from our favorite news sources!
La Vida Locavore
Today I did a 5 mi hike with a photography group on Palomar Mountain. We parked at 5200 feet, hiked down to a pond, and then back up to the car.
We saw some nice flowers, and even a few critters for a nice change.
Mountain Pink Currant
I haven't done as much hiking as I've wanted to lately thanks to a nasty case of tendinitis. I first went to the doctor and looked up what I could on the internet. The advice? Rest, ice, elevation, compression, and take an NSAID like Ibuprofen or Aleve. Plus some recommended stretches and exercises. Well, that didn't do jack for me. Or maybe it was helping but then I re-injured my poor feet on an 8 mile hike that I did after several weeks of prescribed not-hiking. But after that, it's been weeks with a second trip to the doctor, a referral to the podiatrist and little relief. (No appointments available for the podiatrist til mid-May.)
This week a friend recommended a trip to Roadrunner Sports for custom insoles. They cost $80, which is twice what custom orthotics cost (with insurance) from the podiatrist. Only the orthotics from the podiatrist take 4 weeks after your doctor's appointment (i.e. waiting til mid-June). So I went to Roadrunner Sports.
They were amazing. They analyze your feet, your stance, and your gait, in addition to making custom insoles. The guy looked at my old insoles and showed me how to tell that they were beyond worn out. He also looked at my hiking boots - those were worn out too. So I bought new ones of those too.
The new shoes and custom insoles make a world of difference. I also looked up some scientific studies on tendinitis, and those all say to do these exercises. And those exercises are similar to the ones I'd seen elsewhere online, but different in an important way. And you can do them and get custom insoles and replace your shoes before they are entirely worn out to PREVENT tendinitis if you'd like. Believe me, you don't ever want to get it. Ever. Because if you do, you can't go hiking and see stuff like this...
At this point in the hike, we came across three mule deer. They were pretty mellow and hung out a bit once we showed up, but eventually they took off. I couldn't get too close, so the pictures aren't ideal.
We reached our destination, the pond, where we encountered some tricolored blackbirds, western bluebirds, and ducks.
Then I decided I needed to lay flat on my stomach to get a good picture of a plant (below) and rested my arm on top of some nettles. It still itches. Think it was worth the pics I got?
And then we headed back to the car. Up hill the whole way.
I don't know if I've shared this here yet, but this is my last year (for a while) in San Diego. In August, I'm moving back to Madison, WI to attend grad school at UW. So that means that I've gotta make this wildflower season count since I won't have another chance any year soon.
It doesn't help that we're in a historic drought. I was honestly so bummed I felt like Christmas had been canceled. But honestly, the wildflowers, well, you can see for yourself...
All I have to say is: THIS is why I love living in California. One of the many reasons, anyway.
I decided to go to an area in Mission Trails (a large park within San Diego) called Shepherd's Pond because it burned last year. I was in another part of the park when the wildfire broke out. It was Father's Day. We had ash raining down on us and we were inhaling smoke. Then a ranger on a loudspeaker told us to evacuate. In the end, the fire was contained rather quickly and most of the park did not burn. But some of it did... and that's a potentially great thing for this year's flowers.
A month later, I visited the burnt area:
Today I sat out a 10 mile hike I was really looking forward to because I'm having major problems with my feet (tendinitis? plantar fascitis?) and they need to rest and heal. So I decided to console myself by going back to the burned area to see what was blooming. There are some flowers that only bloom after fires, and I was hoping some of them would be around (I don't think they were).
I began by seeing some lemonadeberry starting to bloom:
And some locoweed:
Toyon, a.k.a. Christmas Berry, a.k.a. Hollywood does not bloom now. It produces fruit around Christmas and flowers shortly before that.
Another common plant is Laurel Sumac. It blooms much later in the year too. But I've got new affection for this plant because I just read that it can be used as a mosquito repellant. Not that we've got too many mosquitoes (another reason I love California).
At last, I began running into my wildflowers:
One of my favorites, Encelia californica, really isn't doing to well right now. At least not in this location. I've seen some healthy ones along the highways.
San Diego Sunflower's not my favorite flower by far, but I'm really happy with this photo of it:
I've seen some really sad looking white sage plants, like the one in the foreground here, and they worried me a lot about the impact this drought is having, but there are many more very healthy looking white sages around, like the one in the back of this photo.
The closest thing I got to a real wildlife sighting:
Monkeyflower. An oldie but goody.
There was still wild cucumber vines in various stages of growth all over:
Wild Cucumber flower:
Wild cucumber fruit:
I ran into one of my absolute favorites, Wild Pea:
Some Felt-Leaf Yerba Santa:
A blue dick (which is both gorgeous and has an edible corm):
Wild peas were all over. You can see them growing on this Laurel Sumac:
There was a large area of Wishbone Bush:
Some blue-eyed grass:
If you look closely, you can see that a bee photobombed this next shot:
At last I reached the area that burned last year. Here's how it looks now:
An awful lot of our perennials are "crown sprouters." That means that they have evolved for the entire above ground part of the plant to burn and die in a wildfire, but the below-ground part stays alive and resprouts after the burn.
Despite my high hopes for spectacular wildflowers in this burned area, they were no better or worse than the flowers elsewhere.
More Parish nightshade:
Dodder, a parasite in the morning glory family has attacked this Laurel Sumac with a vengeance. You can see dead branches from where the Laurel Sumac burned, plus new Laurel Sumac growth, plus the orange stuff, which is the dodder.
Another look at dodder on laurel sumac:
I thought I made a really great find, with this flower, but it turns out it's not even a native. It's a Scarlet Pimpernel.
Still more Parish Nightshade:
A California Poppy:
Artemisia california appears to be a crown sprouter. You can really see it here. There was a pretty small plant that burnt, and a lot of healthy growth coming back.
Not the most attractive Morning Glory ever:
I'd heard that Lemonade Berry does not burn and I wasn't sure whether to believe it. Well, here's the proof. A lemonadeberry that clearly was in the wildfire and stayed alive. A lot of foliage did burn, but it's still alive and growing.
Chaparral bushmallow, with bugs:
You can still see the charred bits of grass next to the new growth:
At long last, I reached Shepherd's Pond.
A patch of yellow sweetclover with some other flowers hidden among them:
Mint-Leaf Vervain, in the Verbena family:
An early blooming black sage:
Another favorite, Parry Phacelia:
All in all, I had a great day. If this is a crappy wildflower year, I wish I could be here for a good one.
A view of the park and the trail:
I recently got a copy of the book Guide to Wild Foods and Useful Plants by Christopher Nyerges. It's the second edition, which I assume means there was a first edition out some time ago and this one has newly revised content.
As you'll read below, I've got a few critiques of this book but I like it overall. My satisfaction with it is, in part, because there are just so few books I've found AT ALL on wild edibles that are local to me. Most of what I've learned about using plants comes either from Native Americans or from books on herbal medicine. I love herbal medicine, but it's a different topic from foraging for food, which is the main focus of this book. Therefore, I think this book fills a niche that really needed to be filled.
Although I don't think it's explicitly stated (maybe it does and I missed it), the book strikes me as focusing on plants found in California. That includes many widespread plants found in the rest of the country too (plantain, purslane, lambs quarters, etc), but some of the plants strike me as very California (golden chia, toyon, California bay, manzanita). Therefore, if you're trying to learn how to forage for your dinner in California, this is a good book for you. If you live somewhere else, there will be some entries in here that might not be helpful to you, and the book might neglect to mention plants that are local to you like Oregon grape.
All in all, the book does a few things I like a lot. First, it has an appendix called "Safe Families" in which it lets you know which plant families are entirely safe to eat. Maybe some plants in a safe family don't taste good, but at least you won't die eating them. Hallelujah.
Second, the book also identifies poisonous plants - poison hemlock, poison oak, tree tobacco, jimsonweed a.k.a. datura. Again, hallelujah. One of the most important things to know when you start foraging is which poisonous plants are out there. I know that when I find a plant I think is probably miner's lettuce, I can probably eat it without worrying, but if I think I've found a wild carrot, I should be wary because it looks a lot like poison hemlock.
A third feature I like is the glossary. I'm willing to bet that most aspiring foragers are not up on all of the botanical terms out there (peduncle, pinnate, palmate, etc). The author takes pity on readers by providing a fantastic glossary with drawings.
I'm also generally happy with the plants the author chose to focus on. Many are very common and easy to find and identify. Strangely, he chose to leave out a few big, obvious ones in my view (mesquite, blackberries, and grapes, for example). But he's got most of the important ones included - cattails, a lot of edible greens, currants and gooseberries, acorns, passionflower, nasturtium, mustard, etc.
The book has photos, although I do not know if the photos are good enough to help a newbie actually identify a plant well enough to feel comfortable eating it. That's not a critique of the photos, it's just that I already know how to identify most of the plants so I'm not actually using the photos in that way myself. I think drawings of the plants might be a good addition to help make it more clear to readers how to identify them. This is just something that's really tricky for any guide book on this subject.
So is explaining to readers where any particular plant is found. A broad explanation like "found throughout the Southwest" does little to let a reader know if the plant is found exactly where they live, but too narrow of an explanation, like a list of counties where the plant is present, would be ridiculously long for any guide book. I can't say I feel like this book does the best job at this, but it's a very hard thing to do. Ultimately, you're best off to get a local guide book - I use James Lightner's San Diego County Native Plants - and use that together with a book like this one. And that's exactly what I do.
I do have one real critique of the book. Some of the information is inaccurate. For example, the author gives "tule" as a possible common name for cattails. Tules are different plants. They look a lot like cattails and grow in the same places, but they are not the same plants. Also, in at least two places, he says a plant contains a lot of insulin. He means inulin, a type of fiber. I forget one of the places where I saw this mistake, and I raised an eyebrow but wasn't sure it was an actual mistake, but the second place I saw it was in the entry on chicory. Chicory root is chock full of inulin, so when I saw the mistake there, I knew it was wrong.
I have not spotted any more confirmable errors like these, although I have raised an eyebrow more than once when reading the "common names" given for various plants. For example, he writes that mugwort (Artemisia douglasiana, not vulgaris) is sometimes called sagebrush or purple sage. I've never heard either. The plant I call sagebrush is a related plant, A. tridentata. I've also heard A. californica referred to as California sagebrush. And at least those are in the same family and genus. I've always referred to Salvia leucophylla as Purple Sage, and that's in a different family altogether. Common names can be imprecise and sometimes people refer to two different plants by the same name, so I can't say for sure that this is "wrong," but it seemed odd at the very least.
Fortunately, at least the author doesn't make mistakes that cause anyone real harm, like suggesting that poison oak is good in salad. The closest he comes to that is suggesting that mugwort can be consumed, and I've heard some people caution against that but I think other people think it's OK. I would have liked if he mentioned that it's controversial so people at least know to look up more info before putting it in their mouths.
All in all, this is a good and useful book, especially if you live in California.
Well, shucks. I've got tendinitis in both ankles. My doctor sentenced me to 2 weeks without hiking. Even though it's raining, I'm still longing to get out into the mountains. The John Muir quote, "The mountains are calling, and I must go!" comes to mind. Then I wonder if John Muir ever got tendinitis.
The only good news is that it's raining for several days, and after that I'm going to Wisconsin to check out the grad school there. (I'll probably be going there in the fall.) Some I'm not missing much hiking anyway. By the time I get back, I'll be allowed to go hiking again. And I won't miss any backpacking trips, although I'll have to sign up for a really easy, gentle one this time around.
Since I'm definitely leaving the state at the end of the summer, I've made a bit of a California bucket list. The top item on the list is: Go to Yosemite. And I just signed up for a 4th of July Yosemite trip. I need to get in shape for it. Tendinitis would be a real bummer.
Right now, I'm stuck resting and icing my feet. But before I head back out on the trail, I want to do more to prevent this from happening again. The key seems to be in doing stretches and exercises such as those found here, here, here, and here. Of course, I can't even do any of that right now. It's driving me absolutely crazy.
California's wildflower season is like Christmas to me. It hits its peak in March and April near the coast (a bit earlier in the desert), but it's already beginning. And I am just giddy. Here are some of the photos from my backpacking trip to Noble Canyon.
The hike is a 10 mile hike near Pine Valley, CA in the Laguna Mountains. It's a popular spot for mountain bikers, which is a major downside for it for me, because I despise having to repeatedly dodge bikes as they speed toward me on the trail. We did not do the entire 10 miles, but we did do about 7 miles of it. It's a very interesting hike from a plant point of view because the vegetation changes several times. I do not know the elevation where we started, but we camped at just below 4000 feet, and we hiked up to about 5000 feet.
I began taking photos in the parking lot, when I saw a granary tree. Granary trees are trees with hundreds of holes pecked by acorn woodpeckers, each one stuffed with an acorn. In this case it was a large pine tree. If you click on the photo, you can go to Flickr and zoom in to see it in more detail.
Another plant we saw all around us was sagebrush. This plant goes by several names, but its scientific name is Artemisia tridentata. As an Artemisia, it's related to wormwood and mugwort. I believe the tridentata refers to the serrated edge of the leaves, as each one appears to have three "teeth." We arrived at 8am and it was the "golden hour" for photography. The sagebrush appeared illuminated by the sun.
Sagebrush is medicinal. You can drink it as a cold tea to stimulate your digestive system. It's also carminative (helps with gas) and diuretic. When drunken hot, it's good for fevers. It's also antimicrobial and anti-parasitic. According to Medicinal Herbs of the American Southwest by Charles W. Kane, it inhibits Salmonella and E. coli, which makes it good for treating food poisoning. And you can use it for pinworms and roundworms. Also, ladies, it stimulates you to get your period.
In addition to drinking it, you can use it topically for its antimicrobial and antifungal traits. For example, it's good for athlete's foot. It's also analgesic (painkilling), so you can apply it to booboos of all kinds (including menstrual cramps) as a warm poultice. And you can pour hot water over sagebrush and inhale the steam to help clear mucus out of your airways for bronchitis or sinus infections. This is one impressive plant!!!
Also found in the parking lot: pineapple weed. Another name for this is wild chamomile. It smells like chamomile, and it's medicinally very similar too. You can make a tea with it to aid digestion.
And then we began our hike!
Despite the pines in the parking lot, we were mostly hiking among oaks until we reached a much higher altitude with pines. We saw coast live oaks, interior live oaks, black oaks, and probably some others too.
We also saw a lot of this strange-looking plant, likely something in the genus Keckiella:
The experts among us had an idea of what it was, but I cannot seem to figure out how it's spelled in order to look it up.
Then we came upon an area dominated by Red Shank (Adenostoma sparsifolium). It's common in areas transitioning between chaparral and oak woodland.
On many trees, the bark was peeling off in long ribbons:
We also came across a few wildflowers - paintbrush and monkeyflowers
We also saw a ton of mountain mahogany, a plant in the Rose family, and another plant, which the botanist on our trip thought was likely some sort of Ceanothus, in the Buckthorn family.
We also came across a few pools lined with "red stuff." The botanist among us (I love hiking with a botanist!) collected a sample and looked at it under a microscope after we got back. The red color came from a species of green algae that happens to be red.
Peonies were just getting started, but weren't blooming yet:
At our camp, our botanist found a stick insect. When he first showed it to me, he also had some bits of dead grass in his hand, and the bug was indistinguishable from the grass.
After setting up camp, we continued hiking. This part of the hike was from about 4000 to 5000 feet in altitude. We saw these white berries on branches without any foliage. It wasn't poison oak, but I don't know what it was.
We saw a lot of large fungi, but all of them were dried up and hard:
And we saw ferns and moss (moss not pictured):
Mushrooms, moss, and fern all tell you that this area has lots of water. Fungi tend to like wet conditions, and moss and fern require water for their reproduction.
Then, the strawberries began. I got very excited when I saw the first plants, but before long, the trail was just lined on both sides by strawberries.
Better yet, some plants had flowers and will soon have fruit:
We came across some California Coffee Berry.
And some really spectacular phacelia:
This flower looks to me like Summer Snow, in the Phlox family.
We saw a lot of California Bay Laurel. If you use bay leaves in your cooking, this is one place they come from. The other alternative is a related species from the Mediterranean.
As we hiked back to our camp, the late afternoon sun illuminated the California wild rose plants that lined the trail in some areas. The plants looked almost like dead sticks but they had just started to grow their spring foliage. (No flowers yet.) In the late afternoon light, they were gorgeous.
The next morning, before we left, I walked around near camp and took a few photos of the deergrass by the stream:
Deergrass is a cool plant. The Kumeyaay use the flower stalks (with the seeds removed) in their baskets. When deergrass gets wet, it expands, making the baskets watertight.
I also found quite a bit of mugwort. This is Artemisia douglasiana, as opposed to Artemisia vulgaris, the common form of mugwort sold in herb stores. It's said to stimulate vivid dreams, and it's medicinal for some purposes, although I've heard recommendations that you should not eat it. You are supposed to be able to get the vivid dream effect just by smelling it. My favorite use for mugwort is rubbing it on my skin to wipe off the oils of poison oak. The two plants often grow in the same places.
And, near the water, the willows were in bloom. Here are flowers from a female.
Another member of our group found Indian grinding stones (morteros) a few feet from here. They would have used the willows for building houses, making granary baskets, and making medicine. With the roses, strawberries, acorns, and more, this area would have been a fantastic home for the Kumeyaay.
Wild flower season has not started in earnest yet, but it's starting. I'm hiking this trail again in a month, and by then the flowers will be absolutely glorious. There might even be strawberries by then. (That is, there will be berries growing - the question is whether they will all have been eaten.)
This weekend was my first backpacking trip. It was truly just a learning trip. We went on a marked trail, not too far out of town, in a place called Noble Canyon. We hiked 4.5 miles with our packs on and then set up camp under the shade of oaks and near a stream. Then we did another 4.5 mi as a day hike. The next day, we packed up and hiked back to our cars.
The beautiful thing about the stream? It meant we did not have to carry all of our water.
Less beautiful about it? I got a few mosquito bites. I bet you no one else in the group did - just me. It's always like that. I'm delicious. At night, the bugs came out and so did the bats (who ate the bugs). I've seen bats before, but I've never seen so many, swooping around all over. It made me glad to be vaccinated for rabies.
I did plenty of things wrong when I packed for this trip, but I got the food part RIGHT! Details below...
Let me start by saying that backpacking food, in general, disgusts me. The easiest way to go - and most people in the group did - is to buy a freeze-dried meal packed into a single serving disposable package, boil water, add it directly to the package, and eat it out of that.
To the extent possible, I try to keep my food away from plastic, and I especially make an effort to keep anything HOT away from plastic, because I worry about chemicals leaching into my food. So I will never, ever go the "pour hot water into a pouch of freeze-dried food" route.
That means that I'm stuck washing dishes. In this case, I brought a stainless steel bowl. Titanium is lighter, but also more expensive. Many people bring a cup, often an insulated cup, so they can enjoy hot beverages while they backpack. I didn't.
I was limited in two ways: money and weight. I can't afford much more than I've already got (I've spent plenty, believe me) and I'm also not very strong or fast. I figured that if I had a 20 lb pack and everyone else has 40 lb packs, I'll have a better chance of keeping up. And that's exactly how it worked.
How did I keep my pack weight down to 20 lbs? In part by getting lightweight gear - and in part by just not bringing much at all. Here's my camp set-up:
That's right - no tent. And no stove, no fuel, no insulated mug, no water filter, and no pillow. I would have LOVED to have those things, but the cost and weight just adds up ($40 for a stove, more for the one I want, $25 for a pillow, $50-$100 for the water filter, $45 for a titanium mug, a few hundred for a tent). If I was camping somewhere else, I wouldn't go tent-less, but this is southern California in a historic drought, and rain was not in the forecast. It was fine. Chilly (it got down to freezing) but fine. At least I now know for sure that my down jacket and down sleeping bag do their job to keep me warm enough in freezing weather.
So what did I bring for food?
- 40 oz water
- 2 apples
- 2 peanut butter and honey sandwiches
- Bag of homemade trail mix (almond, walnut, cashew, coconut, raisins, and a few chocolate chips... ideally I'd like to add pepitas)
- 2 Raw Revolution energy bars
- A few carrot sticks
- Dried persimmons
- A bagel
- 2 cups dehydrated split pea soup
- Stainless steel bowl
- Titanium spork
This turned out nearly perfect.
Before leaving home the morning of the trip, I had a cup of coffee and a toasted bagel with butter, 2 eggs, and slices of melted cheddar cheese on it. It was delicious and really kept me full until lunch. Fortunately, I ate it a few hours before the hike actually started. Eating directly before a hike does not feel good.
I needed two lunches, a dinner, a breakfast, snacks, and something to share at dinner time. I ate the peanut butter sandwiches for lunch and the split pea soup for dinner. I got the soup mix from the bulk section of my local co-op. It wasn't organic but at least it had decent ingredients (green split peas, carrots, sea salt, onions, garlic, herbs, and spices). I shared the persimmons. And everything else served as snacks. I ate absolutely everything except for a little bit of trail mix and an apple, and I was never hungry. I also ate a bit of the stuff others brought to share. It was great.
Since I didn't have all the needed gear, I asked ahead of time and a fellow camper offered to share her stove and water filter. I planned to only need hot water once - for the soup. But I didn't plan for the weather to actually go down to freezing during the night. When I got up in the morning, I asked someone to boil me a cup or two of water to drink out of my bowl (since I had no cup). They did, and without me asking, another kind person offered me a tea bag. The tea really hit the spot in the cold.
If I had it to do over again, I'd bring coffee or tea, a cup, and my 64 oz water bottle instead of the 40 oz one. With such a small water bottle, I had to filter water more often than the others. For a trip longer than one night, I'd also want to bring some source of omega-3s - either an energy bar with more omega-3s than what I had, or granola with hempseed or chia seeds in it. And I'd add herbs like thyme to the split pea soup mix.
We were fortunate because there were no bears where we went. That meant we did not need bearproof canisters. I've heard that other critters, particularly marmots, are also rather adept at stealing food. Our trip leader put his food in a rodent-proof container and hung it from a tree. He instructed us to hang our food from trees too, or keep it in our day packs and bring it with us wherever we went. I did the latter, but at night my food was entirely vulnerable. Thankfully it wasn't eaten. But next time around I need a drawstring food bag to hang from a tree. On a longer trip, having your food stolen by a hungry marmot would be a disaster.
Yesterday I hiked the Deer Springs Trail to Suicide Rock in Idyllwild, CA. It's a dramatically different ecosystem from most of southern California, because it's at a high altitude. The forest is host to more species of pine trees than I've seen anywhere else around here and some have edible nuts. The Cahuilla Indians lived there, subsisting on rabbits, deer, pine nuts, acorns, manzanita, and strawberries.
Prints for Sale: I'm trying something new. I'm offering prints of my best photos for sale. Below, you'll find the best pics from this hike. They are gorgeous, if I do say so myself. I'll add a Paypal button on the right column of the site. I'll keep the prices reasonable - I want to earn a bit of extra money but not gouge people.
Photos from the Deer Springs Trail to Suicide Rock, Idyllwild, CA. February 15, 2014. The hike goes from 5000 feet to 7000 feet above sea level.
If you look to the top left side of this blog, you'll notice a new Paypal button. I've got a problem with the backpacking course I'm taking... namely, that I can't afford it. Or the gear. Especially the gear. So I decided to put together a little cookbook to see if anyone wanted to help support me by buying it. It's just $5 - although I set up options for people to give more if they feel like it. But $5 is a fair price.
Here's what you get: The 23 recipes that constitute the majority of my diet. The ones I make over and over so that they are burned on my brain. Most of them are really easy. They are all vegetarian, and most are vegan and gluten free too.
What you don't get: Recipes for junk food. As much as I love a good chocolate chip cookie (or, let's be honest, the entire batch of cookies... I'll eat them all), I stuck to healthy stuff only.
Also, please note that I'm not a stickler for quantities when cooking, so often I write recipes with ingredients specified like "a few carrots" or "salt, to taste." If that is going to bother you a lot, don't get the book. Most of the time, it does not matter whether you put 2 or 3 carrots into the soup, or whether you put in 1/2 tsp or 1 tsp thyme. I usually don't measure. I tried to put estimated or exact amounts where I could so that you aren't totally clueless, but usually I just add a little, taste it, and add a little more if I need to, until it tastes right.
Thank you so, SO much.