Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Welcoming the Snow

We had a treat for the Thanksgiving Weekend this year- 2 feet of fluffy snow and 28 degrees!  It made for a great beginning of winter skiing, and it added to the brightness of the day.  Here are photos of the ski bridge installed before snowfall and after.  Thank you MVSTA!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Habitat for the Birds

At the North Cascades Basecamp in Mazama, songbird habitat along the Audubon Certified trails to the Methow River is native and wild and the upper bench surrounding the lodge and cabin feel naturalized and cared for.  However we realize the parking areas and the grass/tree component of the facility was missing some critical habitat for birds, SHRUBS!   So, we gathered root balls of native plants from our own property, used our kids and wheelbarrows to haul plants up the hill, and marked out the areas of interest.   

With the help of Pacific Crest Outward Bound students this October, they volunteered 50 person hours to turn a gravel parking area into a bird sanctuary for years to come.  Together we made this happen by ridding the parking lot of gravel, tilling the site and digging holes in hard-panned earth, laying down compost, creating a walking path, and planting and mulching native shrubs throughout the area.  We are extremely pleased on how quickly a parking lot has transformed into a new native shrub area to welcome the birds back in the spring! 

Plants we collected and used for our restoration site include:  
* spirea * mountain ash * serviceberry * oregon grape * kinickinick * boxwood * ocean spray * chokecherry * hawthorne * woods rose * sitka rose * red-osier dogwood

Friday, September 30, 2011

Fall Colors: Methow Valley Watercolor Retreat

A troop of aspiring artists paraded over the landscape last weekend to find the perfect views and hues of autumn in the Methow Valley.  Maria Coryell-Martin led the way, with paint palette and watercolor brush in hand to help us all develop confidence for sketching and plein air watercolor.   

The autumn's low light hung in the sky and after quick rain bouts, expressive skies and majestic mountains were highlighted by sun bursts through the misty clouds.  

Maria demonstrates how quick and simple strokes can represent the mist of the clouds and depth of the mountains. 

Using many locations around the Valley for our backdrop, Liberty Bell shines in the sunshine as Maria continues to instruct the group on color mixing and skill-building exercises to develop our field sketches.  The backdrop was stunning, the company wonderful, and the food at the Basecamp kept everyone blissful for the weekend.   

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Oh How Your Garlic Grows: Part II

It's been a fabulous year for garlic in the Methow Valley, and ours were no exception.  Here we harvest 125 bulbs of garlic, perfect in shape and huge in size!  No chemicals, just good ole' manure, water and love.  What a treat to put away and use fresh between now and the end of winter.

New Chicks

 We have a new set of chicks here at the Basecamp this summer, and we've been having fun watching them grow.  They are now 6 weeks old, and integrating well into the flock of 1 1/2 yr old hens we already have.  We had a beautiful Barred Rock rooster (hence the 6 black&white chicks) who graciously gave DNA to all our hens, however none of them wanted to sit on eggs.  So without a hen willing to do the job, we borrowed "Broody Mama" from our friends the Bard family in Twisp.  She willingly took our dozen fertilized eggs, sat on them for the exact 21 days, and successfully hatched eight chicks.  As a mother, she takes her job very seriously protecting her chicks and letting them forage first on the array of leftovers from Basecamp guests and the family garden harvest.  Hopefully we'll get hens out of the batch of chicks;  too young to know yet.  All eggs from our girls go into our meals here at the Basecamp, and we love that orange color and bold flavor you don't get from store-bought eggs.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Sunflower Circle

We've had an amazing start of a garden this year at the Basecamp.  Lots of help from Bernie, Stacey, Katherine, Amelia and Emmet, Steve and myself.  It takes a village to raise a garden as well as children.  This labor of love was built with the intention of flowers for our pollinating insects, edible beauty, and Basecamp guests' summer and winter meals.  In the center of the garden stands a rock circle of herbs, zinnias and SUNFLOWERS! 

Brown-headed Cowbirds

We had an interesting encounter this spring in our own backyard here at the North Cascades Basecamp with something we talk and teach about on a regular basis...  nest parasitism.  We found a ground nest of juncos with an intruder amongst them; a brow-headed cowbird chick (chick on the top-left in the photo).  Notice the new feathers already coming in on the cowbird chick, however the juncos hardly have their down.  It is also significantly larger than the other babies.

Mama and Papa junco diligently were caring for their own trio of juncos, but this babe (the cowbird, chick #4) kept growing and eating, and eventually the juncos were looking a bit lethargic due to their unwanted sibling's ability to grow faster, eat more, and even squish them out of the nest.  Here is more information about the species from the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center.

What is a Cowbird?

The brown-headed cowbird (Molothrus ater) is a brood parasite that lays its eggs in the nests of other birds. These "foster parents", called hosts, usually raise cowbird young at the expense of their own eggs or young.
Cowbirds earned their common name from the habit of following herds of buffalo (and cattle) in search of the insect prey that were flushed up by the large grazing mammals.

Portrait of a Parasite

Cowbirds have been called songbird chickens because they can lay more eggs than any other wild bird. A single female is capable of laying nearly one egg per day at the peak of the breeding season, and produces a total of 30-40 eggs over the 2-3 month breeding period (May-July). Because female cowbirds usually lay only one egg in a host nest, this translates into 30-40 nests parasitized (usually of at least several different species) per female in one season.

Typically, female cowbirds find potential host nests by perching during early morning hours in a location with high visibility such as a dead tree in a forest opening, observing behavior of host females that are building nests, and following the unsuspecting birds directly to their nests. Once the nest location is known, the cowbird returns during the egg-laying period of the host female and deposits her own egg in the nest. By parasitizing during the host egg-laying period, the female cowbird improves her chances that the host female will be away from the nest often (allowing the cowbird access without being detected), and that the cowbird egg will be accepted by the host and receive full incubation.

In approximately 60-70% of nests parasitized, the cowbird removes one of the host eggs before laying her own egg. This is possibly to ensure that the host does not "notice" a different number of eggs in the nest, or to ensure that the cowbird egg receives full incubation (an extra egg laid in the nest could make it difficult for the female to incubate all eggs evenly, resulting in some eggs—possibly the cowbird's—failing to hatch).  Cowbird eggs require an incubation period of only 11-12 days, whereas most host species require 12-14 days, and some as many as 17 days of incubation. Consequently, cowbird young hatch earlier than the host young, affording the parasite a distinct advantage in competing for food with its younger foster siblings.

Cowbirds tend to parasitize birds smaller in size than themselves. For example, by the time they are ready to leave (fledge) the nest, most warbler or vireo (the most common cowbird hosts) nestlings weigh less than half as much as cowbird nestlings. In fact, a fledgling cowbird is larger than the adult warblers and vireos! The monstrous cowbird nestling not only can cause host young to starve by monopolizing the food supply brought by parent birds but also literally may crowd host young right out of the nest.

All of these attributes of the parasite can add up to severe effects on the host family. Impacts of parasitism are different for different host species, but usually result in loss of at least one, and often all, of the 3-5 host young. Although each cowbird female only lays one egg in a nest, a high abundance of cowbirds in an area often will lead to many cowbirds parasitizing the same limited supply of host nests. The presence of more than one cowbird in a nest almost inevitably leads to death of all host young. In addition, raising even one cowbird can potentially reduce the survival of host parents because of the increased physical effort needed to care for the ravenous intruder.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Garlic Scape Pesto

The cold weather this spring and summer are incredible for cool season beauties in the garden like our kale, lettuce, herbs, cabbage, broccoli and GARLIC.  I had a guest recently ask, "is that corn growing".  They likely did not realize what a complement that truly is.  Here is a wonderful recipe I use for the garlic scapes.  This pesto has been wonderful as a veggie dip, on a salad, and over pasta.  

6-7 garlic scapes
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup parmesan cheese 

Blend in a food processor til smooth and creamy .  
Use fresh or jar it up in the freezer for a cold winters night treat. 

Printed from North Cascades Basecamp recipe blog
July 2013

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Wild Food & Fish Foraging Weekend

June 24-26th, we hosted a Wild Foods and Foraging Workshop at the North Cascades Basecamp.  Through the lush summer greenery we tromped about, searching for and sampling the botanical bounty of the Basecamp.  Along the way we plucked greens, gnawed stems, and dug roots.  By the end of the day we eleven learners were all the more aware of the array of natural foods available to us throughout the time and place that is the Basecamp.  

Our menu for the weekend included:
Friday 6/24
Dinner ◦ Slow cooked ham locally grown and harvested ; ◦ Roasted garden potatoes and yams; ◦ Cabbage, carrot, apple slaw with sweet cicily roots; ◦ Emmer rolls; ◦ Rosehip & Mint tea; Dessert
◦ Vanilla ice cream with elderberry syrup

Saturday 6/25
Breakfast ◦ Egg strata w/ sautéed fireweed greens; ◦ Strawberries; ◦ Elderberry scones; ◦ Strawberry/Blackberry leaf tea

Lunch ◦ Wild rice with feta, cow parsnip stalks and wild bulbs; ◦ Salad of wild greens and flowers; ◦ Watermelon; ◦ Coconut-Chocolate Dibs cookies

Appetizer ◦ Salmon skin chips with herbed cream spread

Dinner ◦ Cast iron rainbow trout with foraged wild mushrooms, bacon and herbs; ◦ Smoked wild salmon with stinging nettle sauce garnished with miners lettuce; ◦ Nettle gnocchi; ◦ Asparagus and bracken fern fronds; ◦ Dandelion-Sorrel tea; Dessert ◦ Apple/ Rhubarb cobbler with gingered whipping cream

Sunday 6/26
Breakfast:  ◦ Emmer waffles; ◦ Homemade blueberry-applesauce; ◦ Yogurt, toasted sunflower seeds, syrup; ◦ Cantaloupe

Dana Visalli taught us mushroom identification, Steve Bondi discussed the ecology of Mazama and the wild foods we collected, and Becky Selengut discussed sustainable fishing with the group as well as demonstrated a fabulous culinary dinner on Saturday night with the foods we harvested.  

Edible plants (leaves, roots, stems, bulbs or flowers) found and sampled during our weekend workshop at the Basecamp
  • Serviceberry
  • Elderberry
  • Chokecherry
  • Thimbleberry
  • Raspberry
  • Sticky currant
  • Balsalmroot
  • Oregon grape
  • Tiger lily
  • Cow parsnip
  • Sweet cicily
  • Wild rose
  • Wild mint
  • Lamb’s quarters
  • Salsify
  • Lady fern
  • Bracken fern
  • yarrow
Salad mix
  • miners lettuce
  • stream violet (yellow)
  • dandelion
  • white clover
  • plantain
  • slender hawkweed
  • pineapple weed
  • cleavers (bedstraw)
  • sheep sorrel
  • wood’s violet (purple)
  • sedum (stonecrop)
  • rock cress
  • oxeye daisy

Mushroom sampled:
  • Black morels
  • xxx
  • rose hip and mint
  • dandelion and sorrel
  • raspberry and strawberry leaf
Others sampled and discussed but not seen on site
  • Spring beauty
  • Fireweed
  • Chocolate lily
  • Glacier lily
  • Stinging nettles

Friday, June 10, 2011

Natural Currents: Harlequin Duck Females on the Methow River

Over the pond from North Cascades Basecamp and through the woods to the Methow River we go.  From the strategically setup bench, our eyes followed a Spotted Sandpiper flying over a long bobbling log floating stationary in the river.  On its southern wooded tip, two female Harlequin Ducks were resting with their heads down tight, as the motion of the river currents put them fast asleep.  Suddenly, another alarming female came flying in from down river to make a controlled crash landing in the turbulence of the river next to the log.  She jumped up and onto the jam and joined the other two females to groom herself in preparation for a good nights sleep upon a soothing, yet wild, water bed.
To know more about the life history of the Harlequin Duck, please check out the following Audubon Link:  Seattle Audubon Society

Friday, May 27, 2011

Morels are Up in the Methow Valley

Hurrah!  Black Morels (Morchella species) have begun their ascent into the skies and landscapes of the Methow Valley.  One often associates collecting these mushroom gems from fire-burned areas that occurred in previous years.  However, if one has the eyes to see jewels in the rough, then this mushroom is also momentarily making its debut along and near the banks of the Methow River in association with the leaf litter of Black Cottonwoods.
Another woodland wonder that is currently arising is the Yellow Morel.  This mushroom also haIMG_0055s mycorrhizal relationships with deciduous trees such as the cottonwood tree.  Both these mushrooms are splendid as an addition to gourmet cuisine.  Finding mushrooms of these types gives the hunter a true feeling of communion with the land, as they then take care in each step, as one’s awareness is then in the infinite details of nature’s understory. 
In the first several weeks of May, the Early Morel was the first to peak its head above ground in groundhog fashion. This is one of many false morels that often fool novice collectors.  Also known as Verpa bohemica, this species in known by some to be poisonous and by others as edible if cooked properly.  Apparently, it can cause gastronomical upset in some individuals.  I ate this false morel on two occasions, and found it to be fine to the taste.  So collect and eat with caution knowing exactly that which you partake in.
In the photo above, you can see how the black morel on the left has its skirt or cap attached to the stem where the skirt ends towards the bottom.  However, in Verpa bohemica,on the right, the cap is attached at the top of the stem.  The interior of the stem also has a soft cottony tissue that often has worms browsing about in the older mushrooms. 
And finally, yesterday I found yet another species of Morel look-alikes called Verpa conica. I found this false morel, also known as thimble fungus, under some conifer trees near a pond.  The literature sites this mushroom as edible by some, with the chance that some foragers will have gastronomical discomfort. 
Have fun in the woods……
And be sure to have a great i.d. book and know what you are picking and browsing upon always. 

Friday, April 29, 2011

Beaver Restoration

WSU's restoration ecology class came to the North Cascades Basecamp for an overnight on their 3-day eastern Washington field trip to discuss beavers as restoration specialists.  Steve and I took them into the field and hosted an evening presentation to show and talk to the students about beavers and their amazing ability to restore wetland habitat for a host of wildlife species.    The Methow Beaver Relocation Project was very interesting to these amateur biologists.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Home for the Birds

The Methow Valley Community School 3-4th graders were at the Basecamp for their outdoor education day and helped hang songbird-sized birdhouses throughout the upper portion of the property.  We decided not to put any in the lower wetland and cedar grove areas because there is so much habitat already available to our cavity nesters. The true need was on the grounds near our infrastructure.  We took note to hang the boxes on trees where disturbance is minimal, they can be seen easily from the hot tub, cabin and lodge breakfast areas, and adjacent to our home/garden.  We placed them on the south to east side of the trees where the sunshine can warm their cold little bodies early in the mornings on these still so chilly nights.

Spring Blooms

The glacier lilies are blooming around the Basecamp!  It is fun for us to watch the transformation from winter snow, to first flowers, and onto spring bloom.  This is the season last year when we spent a fair amount of time on the property, before we made the jump to ownership.  This is also how the glacier lily, a favorite of our family, became the logo for our new business venture.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Oh How Your Garlic Grows

The garden beds are finally snow free except for the flurries that whiten them for a mere 20 minutes each day.   And the garlic is up!  This is exciting since it is the first vegetable to live in our new garden space at the Basecamp.  To give the garlic a good spring start, I am giving them a side dressing of compost and mulching the shoots with fresh straw we have been saving for the spring.  The raised beds we are creating with recycled 2x6 wood we have scavenged.  This garlic with be a loved by many a guest in in many a dish at the Lodge this winter.