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Archive for May, 2010

Amaranth

The foul weather has driven me indoors. I was reading Dr. Mark Hyman’s Ultra Metabolism (again) and noticed he seemed to be big on amaranth. I only knew it was a tiny grain and was sure I didn’t like it (without ever tasting it).

Okay, so I buy a very modest quantity to give it a try. I soaked it for about 24 hours (overnight will do) first. To my utter surprise it was delicious. The only condiment I used was a tablespoon of tahini. (You can sweeten with molasses and maple syrup without overwhelming the nutty taste.)

I use a really cool website to track the nutritional value of foods — aptly named Nutrition Data. You can just look up foods or create recipes. You can create diet plans and track total daily nutrition. Best of all, it’s free!

Here’s the analysis of my amaranth porridge (with tahini).

Yep, that’s 9 grams of protein (even without the tahini). That’s more protein (and lower glycemic load) than any other breakfast cereal out there.

And look at the vitamin and minerals:

Woo hoo! Again, if it didn’t taste good … none of this would matter. Here’s my recipe for 2-3 servings:

Suzanne’s Amaranth Porridge

1/2 cup amaranth
1 1/2 cups water
1/8 tsp. salt

Soak 1/2 cup Amaranth over night (or longer). Drain. Cover with 1 1/2 cup water and 1/8 tsp salt. Bring to boil then lower heat and simmer slowly for 20 minutes. Stir every 5-8 minutes. Lower heat as needed.

It tends to stick to the bottom of the pan. (I add a dash of olive oil to mitigate pan stickiness.) Stir to break up any clotting or pan bottom sticking. Cover when done (water is absorbed) and remove from heat. Makes 2-3 servings.

Condiment options: tahini, molasses, maple syrup, roasted almonds, coconut, etc.

It has a nutty, rib-sticking taste that doesn’t really beg for sugar. With my Oolong tea I’ve had my caffeine and cereal in healthy portions. đŸ™‚

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It’s raining!

This is the first time in the two years I’ve lived here that it has rained nearly non-stop, during the day …  real rain … like, heavy raindrops … for over a week. There are pools of water everywhere!

This image off my back porch illustrates why I’m hiring “drainage experts” to pull the water away from my home. Tsk! Tsk! Home was built in 1989 … apparently before drainage regulations were in place.

I’d been babying little tomatoes I bought in 4″ pots and stair-stepped up to 1 and then 5 gallon pots. I took them off the porch just before the deluge started. Chances are they’re “shocked” past redemption by now.

Irises on the other hand, are like ducks. They’re perfectly happy in the rain!

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Silver Falls Hike

The Forever Young hikers went to Silver Falls state park in Oregon. It made for a great hike. Read about the curious history at this post.

With so many falls I couldn’t help but think of Ronald Reagan’s infamous quip, “Once you’ve seen one redwood you’ve seen them all.”  There were at least ten falls and photographically speaking, once you’d seen one … well, enough said.

We started at North Falls. Click on the image to enlarge and see the trail that goes under/behind it.

It has to be said that the geography of the area is spectacular. The water pours over these massive lava “shelves”. The force of the water has carved out enormous hallow caves underneath which allow for trails.

Here’s a view from under the falls. All those negative ions recharged our batteries. You can just barely make out a group of hikers on the cave trail just to the left of the water column.

Again, we have FDR to thank for putting the CCC to work restoring the area. It’s now the largest state park in Oregon.

Other falls came in all shapes, heights and sizes — from broad and flat to wispy, slithery streams over moss-laden rocks. A word of caution at this time of year — pay attention! Portions of the trails are steep and slippery.

With all the shade and misting from the falls the wildflowers were robust! The moist rock walls were covered in cascading sedum and saxifrage. There were trillium, delphinium, mosses and ferns. I discovered an awesome Pacific NW wildflower site at Turner Photographics.

Here’s my photo of what I think is Hooker’s Fairy Lanterns (Prsartes smithii):

Corydalis scouleri was blooming and was everywhere along the trail:

These hikes bring out the kid in me. The easy socializing and conversations. Meeting new people. It’s like being on the playground in first grade.

All the planning and driving is done by others — often to places I’d never heard of (being a newbie and all). What a deal for $16! I’m having a ball. I was thoroughly (and happily) exhausted by day’s end.

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A Very Special Visitor

I was away for about 5 days last week. As I drove up to my house I was stunned to see a new bird at my feeder. I’d never seen it before.

Turns out it’s an Evening Grosbeak. Here’s an excellent image from The Zen Birdfeeder in upstate New York. She also has an excellent post.

I could only capture this fellow from the front. Our western variety has a narrower “eyebrow” band. They have a high single-note chirp.

There seems to be at just one pair that’s frequenting my feeder. The female is lovely but doesn’t sport the bright yellow markings.

This Spotted Towee is usually much more demure … and only seen in the underbrush. With the new feeder location generating so much excitement I guess it was more than this little one could resist.

I gotta say, you get a lot of mileage out of a bird feeder and bird bath. Your yard becomes a locus of activity and provides terrific entertainment.

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The Birds Are Back

I can’t tell if it’s just because it’s spring … or that my feeder is back up. It took the Chickadees only a few hours to discover the feeder’s new location. But it was over a week before the crowds showed up.

The first were the American Goldfinch … in clusters of six or more!

Then whole families of the European House Sparrow arrived.

The Red-breasted Nuthatch joined the fun.

This is either a juvenile or female Black-headed  Grosbeak.

It looks just like the Rose-breasted  Grosbeak — but I don’t think that bird frequents our region. The throat was quite rosy but note the streaks under the wing.

There were also purple finch, scrub and blue jays and the ubiquitous Black-capped Chickadee. Another little Yellow-rumped Warbler flitted to within a few feet of my chair only to dart away. They may be here longer than I thought. They’re just secretive.

The Robbins don’t feed at the feeder, but there’s no other bird that enjoys a bath so much! I’ve discovered a nest and brooding female in one of my trees. They’re very entertaining birds. All these birds are nature’s most efficient “insecticides”.

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Winter’s Harvest

Last fall’s leaves have stewed all winter. They didn’t get “hot” this year. I don’t know why. Maybe the pile got too wet. It steamed for the first week and then cooled — no matter how much I turned it. Still it shrank in size and I can only assume composted to some degree.

When I harvested it I was surprised the discover HUGE worms throughout. There were plenty of the regular red worms, but also these enormous paler worms with flattened spatula tails. Wikipedia has an excellent article of earthworms in general. The bigger ones I found are Lumbricus terrestris. The wetter cooler compost may have been more attractive to them.

Here’s my lousy picture (I didn’t want to touch it and it was squirming rapidly into the soil.)

These worms are not well suited to an indoors compost bin. They burrow deep in the earth and it’s believed they surface to mate when it rains — and it’s been raining.

There was a recent article about the Giant Palouse worm in eastern Washington and Idaho. For a minute there, I thought I had one of my own!

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Backyard Sightings

This is the second year I’ve spotted the Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Audubon briefly visit my yard — same time of year, same corner of yard. There were at least two pairs. Apparently they pass through here while migrating to breed. They were very shy and hard to glimpse with binoculars, let alone a camera! I really had to keep my distance.

My photo (male):

Web image:

You can’t really tell from either photo how striking that yellow head-patch is. When out in the field that paired yellow above and below the beak flashes as the bird pecks the ground and darts its head up again. It’s unlike any other bird in this region.

The Pieris japonica are blooming and attracting bumble bees. It’s funny how different flowers attract specific bees.

This is the classic fat-bodied, yellow and black bumble bee:

This one might be the orange-belted (and shy) variety:

Neither bee kept very still. Apparently they’re social and have colony hives. Meanwhile, I’ve got 5 Orchard Mason bee “nests” built. I’m hoping for many more once the weather heats up (and dries out).

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