At Ease

The hot water heater stopped working. I always check the water temperature before getting in the shower, so I was spared that particular discomfort on the first of this year, but darn it — I need a shower. This is the latest stressor in a week that has included an ER visit by my husband for mysterious gastric misery, a car accident, a chimney fire, an emergency vet visit, a missed flight, multiple last minute overnight visitors, and a new job. And Christmas and New Year.

We are not set up for overnight visitors. Not one, and certainly not two. The house is far from finished and Tom and I sleep in a hallway. The bathroom has no door. Hell, none of the rooms have doors.  Naked sheetrock and exposed insulation: unfinished. And I have deadlines to meet, sick folks to administer to, and funky infrastructure to demystify. I came home from a dog walk to find the power to the house inexplicably shut off. And now the hot water heater…

The chimney fire got snuffed out, the husband feels a bit better each day, and airline disasters have a way of getting fixed if you douse them in enough cash. The car is totaled, but no one was hurt. The dog with the swollen face has me worried; the dog with cancer has me sad.

Last night the canine house guest barked each time snow slid off the roof – starting at 1 a.m. this continued the rest of the night. Jerked out of sleep seven or eight times between the wee hours and dog walking o’clock, to say our nerves are shredded would not be histrionic.

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And yet, when the time came for The Morning Walk, off we went: the autistic, the rambunctious, the aged and infirm, and the killer. My bosom companions. About an inch of fresh snow fell overnight, smoothing out and covering up all the evidence of walks past. That’s where I fell when Hawk kneecapped me, that’s where Cinder and Peeka tussled and I had to scream at them, that’s where Hawk attacked the tree… all nicely smoothed and remolded into a fresh coverlet of white. Nothing but mice playing here.

It was sunny, and we’ve had a lot of gray, sky-spitting days. The sun, the fresh snow, the 30 degree temperature all conspired to render me at ease.  At ease, soldier. No grand pronouncements, no pithy or pretentious revelations. Just a few moments of ease, sun and relative peace. The day will bring battles and triumphs: laundry will get folded, appliances will go belly up and there will be “who’s blood is this?” moments. I’ll sort, create, repair, and triage my way through it, chipping away at the mountain of tasks this life throws in my path, recognizing there is never an end. Only the at ease moments to soak in before, once more, I am called upon to enter the fray.

 

 

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A Dog Training Manual as Memoir

Eventually I will write this book. The whole thing. Not sure when “eventually” will turn into “soon” but it will happen. I’m sharing it now, prematurely, since the rest of the book hasn’t been written yet, as a way to keep myself honest. If I do a spoiler alert then I really truly have to write the rest of it — right? Good winter project, perhaps.

Because I have a number — ok, a LARGE number, in some folks’ opinions — of notyouraverage dogs, training is a huge part of my life. Call them working breed, high drive, or just plain INTENSE, my dogs are not like “normal” dogs. Their needs are different and their responses to “normal” stuff is different. Training isn’t suggested or important – it’s critical to everyone’s survival. But I am not much of a dog trainer, not in any organized or thoughtful way. The book — once I write it — is about living with these dogs: surviving, thriving, enjoying, screwing up, and learning how to live in harmony and relative peace with beings that seem to take great pleasure in destruction of all things humans care about. What follows is the introduction… I think.

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Walking around the pond with the whole family off leash, we came upon a dead, semi-disemboweled toad. Several family members leaned in for a closer look. Without missing a beat, I commanded “Leave it,” in a clear, unemotional but unequivocal, tone. I commanded like a pro – accustomed to giving such directives and fully expecting to have them obeyed. The one small glitch? I was talking to my husband.

Training my dogs isn’t something I do. It’s something I live. Training isn’t an activity separate from daily life, as poor Mr. Toad’s demise demonstrates. Everything that happens on this mountain where we all live is fodder for a command. Every day, every moment I’m with the pack, we’re teaching and learning and those roles are fluid. My approach to having well-behaved “trained” dogs is not something I could lay out in a training manual, and this is not a “dog training” book. I figure out, convince, cajole and mold my dogs into beings I want to be around all the time. As my husband is fond of saying (albeit with regard to weight loss): It’s a lifestyle, not a diet and exercise plan. What I do with my dogs often ends up “training” them, but that isn’t exactly the goal. The goal is happy, safe, dogs and a relatively tolerable household. Given that I lived in a one room shack with five large, high drive dogs for three years, I’ll admit it can be a tall order.

The impetus to write this book was born of reading other dog training books. You see, I do wonder what I’m missing by not training my dogs the “normal” way. I’m endlessly curious about dogs. Coyotes and wolves too, but because I live with dogs, and there’s tons written about them, I tend to read about dogs and dog training. I’ve read a few classics and learned something from each: Patricia McConnell’s The Other End of The Leash and Suzanne Cloutier’s Bones Would Rain From The Sky were consumed when I adopted Hawkitt, and he benefitted from the expertise I gleaned from these authors. A year or so later, I devoured On Talking Terms with Dogs: Calming Signals by Turid Rugaas in an afternoon. I love looking up from my iPhone at the breakfast table (yes, I’m that kind of jerk) to see my husband using these signals (I taught them to him) with our newest challenge – Peeka.

However, it was reading Jean Donaldson and Kevin Behan side by side that made me decide to write my own book. Your Dog is Your Mirror and The Culture Clash could not approach dogs and training them from more divergent perspectives, yet both authors speak with great authority and conviction, seem knowledgeable and experienced, and boast extensive successes. Both speak in absolutes, and the books are full of always/never language and unwavering assertions. They seem so certain of their techniques, methods, and the theoretical underpinnings thereof, and back up these assertions with reams of “proof.” And I believe them. I am not insinuating that either one of them are blowing smoke. I think these two wildly different approaches are both yielding consistent success. Put plainly, I think they are both right. And maybe they are both wrong.

I use neither of their approaches with any consistency at all, and in my 10 years or so fostering and adopting pointy-eared Belgian and Dutch shepherds I’ve created a number of obedient, fun dogs out of frightened, abused and nearly feral wrecks. I am open-minded, but absent-minded. I’m not unwilling to try a new technique and see how it works, if I can remember all the steps. But I can’t always spit out the correct dog’s name, much less “perform” steps or apply techniques in an organized or consistent manner. My life just isn’t like that. I need commands because of bears and porcupines, not tunnels and teeter totters. I need dogs that are safe with me and my lifestyle, which is a bit rough and tumble to say the least. And my eclectic mish mash of McConnell, Cloutier, Karen Pryor, Donaldson, Behan, and many others seems to work. I let the dog, the unique individual in front of me, dictate how we come to live in harmony.  Ok, maybe not dictate, but at least participate. The dogs and I work it out – I demand, they comply a little, I bend a little and we end up somewhere mutually acceptable.

Where am I going with this? If Donaldson’s Skinnerian behavioral approach, Behan’s energetic paradigm, and my chaotic bumbling all work reasonably well most of the time with most dogs, what does that really say about dogs and training them? I believe it bespeaks of a heresy: most methods work. Most approaches, no matter what the philosophy behind them, regardless of whether they’re based on research or intuition or hogwash, work.

Yes, you read that correctly. I think most people, no matter what they do, manage to train their dogs about as much as they want to, sometimes much much more. Sometimes folks give up after experiencing precious little success, but I think the fat part of the bell curve is full of folks who’d describe their training experience as “yeah, I did ok. We got most of what we needed to do accomplished.” Most people manage to establish that outdoors is for bathroom functions, and a sit-down-stay-come that works in at least 75% of situations. Maybe even polite leash walking. For many people, that’s plenty. And they get there using every method and technique under the sun. I’ve met quite a few clicker fans, and seen incredible results. Some people use food treats for everything, and have that treatbag on their belt at all times. Flawless dogs reported. I trained my very first dog exclusively using leash corrections (it was the 1970s so don’t get your panties in a knot), and he was perfect (he was also a German Shepherd Dog and a damn good one at that). Every one of these approaches has its cheerleaders and its naysayers. And I think all of them work.

But back in the second paragraph I promised you that this wasn’t a dog training manual. That’s because the “how” of getting a dog to do our bidding isn’t interesting to me. Seems like there’s plenty of information out there about the “how” and plenty of options. Wanna get Fido to do something? Try a technique. If it doesn’t work well enough, try another one. Figuring out how to teach a trick so that a dog will perform it is not interesting to me. Once I am sure I’m not being cruel, I’m also equally sure that eventually some method will work. Trying to get a dog to stop engaging in a behavior is more challenging to me, but that too is the realm of “how” – and again, try a technique. If that doesn’t work, try another one. In the vast majority of cases, something works.

But the “why” of dog training – now that keeps me up at night. Not why train your dog at all (I just rolled my eyes and smacked you upside your head), but why dogs comply. Why do dogs trade their agenda for ours? I am outnumbered and outgunned when I walk my pack. They are stronger, faster, and much more lethal than me. They could do whatever the hell they wanted to, and I couldn’t stop them. They have to know this. They are not stupid or insensitive to my impotence. But when they explode after a deer, I can reliably get them to hit the brakes and return to my side immediately. I have nothing to offer them for that act of trading their agenda for my own. I don’t have a treat or a toy or even much of a response. But they do it. They leave prey animals alone. They do “tricks” like “high five” or recently Hawkitt climbed a tree, just because I asked him to. I use no incentive, no reward, no punishment. I just said “hey Hawk, go climb that tree” and whaddya know – he did it. My question is: Why? My endless fascination is with the willingness of my dogs to do make this trade – their agenda for mine – and that’s what this book is about.

 

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The End of Summer (ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes)

Change of heart. Change your mind. Loose change. Change of pace. Changeling. Change of life. Small change. Change it up. Chump change.

Change or die.

 

Knowing and being ready to act upon knowledge are two very different things indeed. How many habits have you known you needed to break, only to circle back, to indulge in one more “last time?” I could feel a change brewing for much of this summer, but the experience of knowing it and feeling it coming on couldn’t quite morph into living it.

Change is hard. I settle into routines as easily as the next guy and only pain and suffering wrests me out of those routines. I had worked out a great dog care routine here at the shack, but this summer I could feel it inching (and, at times, hurtling) towards change. But still I resisted. I didn’t want to change. I still don’t. But it’s inevitable. Change or die.

Iske died in February. I knew what a giant loss this would be to our pack. It’s not sentimental, and I doubt they “miss” her, although if Cinder could articulate her emotions, perhaps she’d describe it that way. They needed her. She played a critical role here, and her presence even as an aged, blind, deaf, incontinent, demented and ultimately dying pack member meant certain types of nonsense was not going to happen. The young and the restless did not act up when she was alive. She didn’t rule with fangs and claws, but somehow rule she did. She kept a certain sense of order and decorum. Without her, I predicted, there would be a real hole in our pack and none of the other dogs would step up to fill it. I was right.

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Iske and Mica skewed the pack in the elderly direction. Hawkitt and Peeka reorient it towards youthfulness. And mayhem. Cinder has no interest in maintaining order – she just wants to do her own thing and be left alone. Lily is firmly ensconced in her Omega position. There’s no one but me to keep the nudniks in line.

Add in that Mica and Iske both loved hiking. They were natural hikers, at ease and utterly comfortable in the woods, trotting ahead of me on the trail enjoying chipmunking but not manic or compulsive about it. Cinder is compulsive – all moving things must be stopped. Peeka is confused but eager. And Hawkitt is bored. The daily hikes no longer meet the pack’s needs the way they once did. And a bored, high drive, 95 lb striped marauder is just no good at all. Hawk attacks trees, brings toys along to play with on the way, and on one awful braindead morning, followed his nose to go join another hiker. I spent hours looking for him, yelling myself hoarse calling him… only to find him safely delivered to our home via a car ride from a stranger. That can’t happen again.

You see, some of the change I must adapt to is not part of the natural evolution of my pack. When we chose to move to this place, our choice was in part due to the property backing up to over a thousand acres of public land – public land that had no public hiking trail on it. This summer that changed. A public trail was opened, and the result is exactly as I predicted – I have lost something I valued beyond words. While I know many people would think one person’s loss means little on the balance sheet when “The Public” stands to gain so much, but that isn’t really accurate or fair. What I lost is gone forever, and quite frankly, I’m stuck here. What was gained by the community could have been gained many other local places… Scutt Mountain, Moon Mountain, or up in Prattsville, where the waterfall trail has been waiting to be finished for years. My backyard wasn’t the only option for a hiking trail. But now it is there. And I just have to adapt. Change … or watch change happen around you.

I am heartsick and grieving the loss of this mountain and my daily routine, but I don’t have the luxury to process that loss. I have to function, taking care of 4 beings (ok, 5 if you add in Tom) with very different needs. I have to find ways to satisfy all of them, imperfectly perhaps, but it’s got to be good enough to keep everyone mentally healthy. Me included.

Hawk’s foray onto the public trail and his interest in meeting a human really took me by surprise, but instead of getting angry at him, I interpreted it as communication: Hawk wants more interaction with the outside world. God knows why – I loathe interaction with the outside world. But Hawkitt believes he is the mayor of Bramley Mountain – perhaps of Delhi and Bovina as well. He needs to meet humans and tell them how happy they are to meet him. He is gregarious with a capital G. So I’ve been taking him to the Delhi Farmer’s Market each week. Some of the vendors have gotten to know him and literally squeal with delight when he rounds the corner. “It’s HAWKITT!” they cry and his wag could send bushels of winter squash flying. He loves being a good boy in public. I’m changing, letting this be part of the routine.

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I had thought that part of the changes coming up would include adding a new member to our pack. I committed to taking in Summer, a drop dead gorgeous 10 month old malinois from Florida. We were awaiting transport details when an incident unfolded that ultimately made us all – me, Tom, and Cindy, Summer’s coordinator – change our minds. My dogs acted as a pack, aggressing against an “outsider.” I was able to break up the 3 against 1 melee but not before my friend’s dog bit me. I’ve received a lot of accidental nips and bites (Hawkitt isn’t careful about adjusting his grip on the stick), and plenty of what I affectionately term “asshole nips” by Peeka. This was neither. I received a full-on hard bite from a frightened dog defending itself. I’m fine, and I was able to prevent injury to all involved (well, ok, except me), but this whole thing shook me up. I couldn’t think straight for a few days, just so dismayed that I had placed all the dogs in that situation. When I finally settled down enough to think clearly, I knew that losing Iske had been even more monumental to this pack, and to me, than I realized. Without her, there is an instability that could pop up at any moment, with dangerous results. Taking in a new dog was possible, I realized, but not without making radical changes in how I managed everything around here. It would be a fully new experience, despite the number of new dogs I’d introduced before. I talked it over with Cindy and left the final decision up to her. She chose wisely, and Summer is safe in Florida in an excellent foster home. Saying no to a new dog… that’s a change I hadn’t anticipated.

We’re moving into the new house on October 15. The changes to come are incredible. I’ve never lived in a house I participated in building before and it’s an amazing feeling looking around, and knowing – I touched every single piece of insulation. I picked up and carried every single piece of rough-sawn siding. Items that sat in our backyard for years (the kitchen sink was acquired long before this property was!) are in place and functioning. My new kitchen will be magazine-worthy. I have lived in one room for 3 years. Sleeping in a different room and having to walk from where I sleep to where I eat… down stairs, around a corner, into a fully different space – this is huge. Everything about how I manage the dogs will be different – where they eat and sleep, how we walk each morning, and where we go to pee at 10 pm. We will all adjust most joyously, I think.

Change or die… and sometimes, change and live well. I guess that’s the definition of hope.

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Hawk

I’m jealous of my dog.

Sure, sure: what a great life he has, now that he is rescued and not starving, freezing, running the streets and dumpster diving for a living. But that’s not what I mean. Yes, he has a great life, as do most dogs I know. He has a pack of miscreant nudniks to play with and ample food and a soft bed, but that’s not why I’m jealous of him. I have all that too.

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He is in his prime and he is a formidable beast of a dog. His muscles ripple. His coat gleams. He moves with a powerful grace and suppleness that makes me swoon. No, I don’t want him in a lustful way, and no, I don’t want to be with a human male who has those qualities. Ok, well, maybe I do. I haven’t really given it much thought. But I want those qualities for myself.

 

I am jealous of my dog because I want to be him. I want to be that strong, that vibrantly and intensely alive, that healthy and powerful. I want to move with that ease. I want nothing to stand in my way of getting what I want. I want to be able to leap up trees, scale cliffs, fly through the air, break doors down, pull my truck with my teeth… (don’t call the humane society; I’ve never asked him to do that but now that I’m thinking about it, I bet he could). He is more alive than I think I have ever been.

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Any living creature at the height of their prowess is breathtakingly beautiful. All athletes at the top of their game are intimidating adversaries and mighty Caseys at the bat. My Hawkitt is animal grace and power all wrapped up in a soft striped coat and a gentle demeanor. He is a lover, not a fighter. But that’s a choice he makes. If he were sharp, skittish, nippy… I’d be dead meat. He is a gentle, kind, loving presence in our family in a physical package that is completely intimidating.

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I often think of my dogs and I as a team, working together to accomplish goals (like making it home unquilled). But we are not equals. I am not what he is. He respects me and accepts my leadership, using his body as a force for good, not evil, in our home. He is proof that power does not always corrupt.

 

I am jealous of my dog. And my heart sings each and every time I look at him.

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Hide and Seek

I found ginseng the other day.

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Panax quinquefolius

I spend an inordinate amount of time in the woods, and almost all of that time is spent looking for, and/or looking at, stuff. I’ve looked for and found someone’s lost keys, a specific pregnant porcupine, my cell phone, the dog’s toy, several patches of orchids, the ‘one way’ sign on the west side of the mountain, chicken of the woods, golden chanterelles, bear dens, porcupine dens, and human “dens” (hunting blinds). I’ve found 50 year old whiskey bottles, and 5 day old ‘congratulations on graduating’ balloons. I’ve found the best view on the 1200+ acre parcel, the best tasting blackberries, and the secret caves.

 

I’ve run into bears (plural – Mama plus 2 cubs once, and teenage boys several times), fishers, deer, and coyotes, and spotted bald eagles and indigo buntings. None of these are particularly rare, but they all give me a thrill.

There’s what you’re looking for and then there’s what you find. I’m always looking, but rarely seeking. Some days I go out to find something specific, and my track record is only fair. The pregnant porky was amazing, but there were a few trips looking for Steve’s keys before I actually came up with them. Sometimes (e.g., the cell phone) failure is not an option. But every day I look at everything, expecting nothing/anything.

Finding ginseng was eagerly anticipated. I knew the chances of finding it were so-so. But I also knew that I saw some last year and got shot down – one expert “wasn’t sure” and another said “nope, lookalike plant.” I thought I was right and they were wrong and I was bound and determined to show them. So it’s been a solid year of seeking, not every day, but often enough. Tenacity rewarded.

This time I waypointed the find on my GPS and my plan is to keep looking for more. But in the meantime, there’s plenty to look for and even more to marvel at. Maybe one day I’ll join the ranks of those who believe they’ve seen a cougar. In the meantime, I’ll be happy to keep finding plump sweet blackberries and other forest edibles.

 

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The Notion of Promotion

Despite the time-wasting, short-attention span nature of scrolling through my Facebook feed, I did stumble upon an article about hiking that I not only read, but read closely. Well written and full of useful tips, long enough to be a decent treatment of the topic but not in the TL;DR category, I should be extolling its virtues, but I’m not going to do that. I’m going to tear the whole thing apart. Come on, you’d expect nothing less from me. Here’s the link: http://hubpages.com/sports/Tips-for-Hiking-Trails

The article does a nice job of promoting and encouraging new, out of shape, and inexperienced hikers to stay with it and bag those peaks. The tips pass muster and the tone is positive and upbeat. But — why can’t we be ok with the fact that some folks don’t like hiking, don’t want to hike, or CAN’T hike back country trails? Why do we have to promote, encourage, heck – browbeat – nonhikers into joining us in our endeavor? If we need to promote the activity to people who find it stressful (first paragraph, hiking is described as “incredibly challenging” and in the second paragraph – “stressful”), maybe we’re on the wrong trail.

I completely agree with efforts to encourage “unplugging” from devices and the internet. I completely agree with promotion of being outdoors. But you can do that while you pick apples, go for a swim, sit and read a book, or doze in a hammock. Promotion of outdoor recreation doesn’t have to mean the back country. In the Catskills, we can enjoy the benefits of being outdoors “in nature” on rail trails, village sidewalks, and our own front porches. Speaking of the benefits of nature, I’ve seen a few articles about the so-called benefits of being in nature – mental health benefits, “spiritual” benefits, etc. In every single study, when you look at the specifics, the benefits gained could have been gained in one’s own back yard, a town park, or similar nonbackcountry outdoor area. The notion of nature walks somehow being a jumpstart to human spirituality is fodder for another blog post, but all I’ll say here is nope. Visit a few gorgeous places that are littered with beer cans, broken glass, used condoms and diapers (yes, that’s what I picked up in the woods at a litter picking event at the Blue Hole, formerly one of the most pristine and sublime places in the entire Catskills) to understand that folks are gonna do what they do. Being out “in nature” isn’t going to take anyone to Spirituality Central unless they were already on that bus.

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I completely agree with promoting and encouraging children to get outside and play, and adults can find their version of outdoor recreation (grown up play) that works for them. Unstructured free play outdoors is something I think all kids can find a way to enjoy. Some will be incredibly athletic and run around, build jumps and ride bikes, skateboards, go karts, etc. over them, climb trees, and explore their own kinetic extremes. Some kids will sit still on a stream bank and daydream, listening to the brook sing. Some kids will be in that brook, on their hands and knees, catching crayfish and marveling at caddisfly larvae. [Confession – more than one child was forbidden from playing with me because they came home too dirty. I was perpetually covered in mud. Still am.] All forms of enjoying time outdoors, unplugged, and away from adult “supervision” (i.e. control) are good for kids. Letting kids choose what works for them is by far the best way to build enjoyment and help kids develop a strong positive association with being outdoors that can last a lifetime. Similarly, letting adults gravitate to the activity that resonates for them just makes sense. When I read the encouragement provided by the article referenced above I felt like this is all about trying to fit square pegs into round holes.

Why push hiking? There are so many different ways to enjoy being outdoors, why herd folks onto the hiking trails and then coach them on how to enjoy it? Seems like wasted effort to me. And, dare I say it – potentially dangerous, both to the hikers but also to the fragile mountain ecosystems. Inexperienced people are innocently ignorant and do ill-advised things (like cutting down trees and branches for all kinds of weird reasons). They also tend to get lost, ill, or injured. They trespass and make for problematic relationships with adjacent land owners — here in the Catskills this has resulted in loss of access in several places. But to me the single most important reason to NOT encourage people to enter the back country? They don’t have fun. They endure it, survive it, damage themselves and the nature they are supposed to be inspired by, and all too often require rescue. All of that could be avoided if folks didn’t hike unless they actually love hiking. Why not follow your bliss (yeah, I hate that phrase too) and do something that you enjoy? Yes, climbing mountains offers some great rewards for those who love doing so, but that cost-benefit analysis has to make sense.

Ultimately, the article made me uncomfortable. I don’t want to encourage people to push themselves. I want to encourage people to be happy (and yes, some people take great delight in pushing themselves. Those folks need no encouragement and they sure don’t need an article telling them how to push past discomfort. They do it all the time.). I want to encourage people to feel good about themselves and embrace who they are. We are not all the same. Yeah, hiking is popular. It’s trending (I just threw up in my mouth a little). But really, it isn’t for everyone. Hauling your mass up a mountain is just not comfortable, period. Not everyone enjoys being uncomfortable. And that’s ok. Miles of trail are boringly similar, and the viewspot is a blip in an otherwise endless sea of sameness. There are ticks carrying Lyme disease and other debilitating diseases, there are gnats, mosquitoes, blackflies, and no-see-ums, and they all bite. There are amazing amounts of stinging nettles and blackberry canes. There are bears and coyotes, which seem to scare the sense out of most people. There is no latte at the summit, no frozen snickers bar, no craft-brewed IPA. You need to go into the villages for those things.

Sometimes there is no view at the viewspot.

Sometimes there is no view at the viewspot.

If we care about economic development, we need to stop promoting the wilderness and start promoting the villages. If we care about environmental protection, we need to stop promoting the wilderness and start putting our money where our mouths are in terms of protecting it. And we need to figure out how we’re going to deal with the ever increasing numbers of people who do come visit and hike the back country – because parking areas are full, the back country is littered and chopped, and the reports of rescues clearly demonstrate that at least some of the folks coming out here and getting into trouble are neither prepared for nor enjoying a back country experience. I don’t know what the answers are, but I worry that the right questions are just not getting asked anywhere near often enough or loudly enough. The din of promotion, no matter how well written and kindly the form it takes, is shouting over what I believe is common sense.

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Welcome to #Wellness

I’ve toyed with writing a wellness blog for years. I’ve actually dipped my toes into this corner of the blogosphere a couple of times in the past, my recipe for green beans being one of my all-time favorite pieces of blog-blather. But to kick off an honest-to-goodness foray into telling people what to eat, how to eat, how to exercise, how to live their lives, how to think, how to act, and generally how to structure their inner and outer worlds, I thought I’d offer a recipe. People love recipes, right?

I wish I could share with you Bunmi Laditan’s recipe for her chicken tenders, but she didn’t publish the recipe. Read her description, though, and you’ll understand why I want to marry her. I may just settle for buying her book and stalking her online.

The recipe I’m about to share is for raw oats. Raw oats with some stuff on them. Mostly sugar, because sugar makes things taste good. There’s some sticky stuff (mostly sugar) that glues the raw oats together and makes them something you can hold in your hand. There’s plenty of room for customizing this recipe and it is fast and simple to make. And raw. Well, sort of raw – the oats are raw but the sugary stuff is warmed up to make it pourable.

NotClif Bars
4 cups rolled oats
1 cup nut butter (I used a chocolate almond butter I got from the health food store because just plain peanut or almond butter is too slippery and the bars don’t become bars… they are more like crumbles.)
1 cup honey
1 cup chocolate chips
1/3 cup (or so – don’t be anal and measure) coconut oil
Salt

Prep a 9×12 pyrex baking dish by spraying with canola oil or wiping with something else – butter? Veg oil of some sort? Or just line it with parchment paper?
Put the oats and chocolate chips in a big bowl.
Melt the coconut oil with the nut butter and honey over low heat in a saucepan. Once all melted, remove from heat and pour over oats. Mix thoroughly.
Dump and spread into the prepared 9×12 pan. Press into an evenly spread and distributed layer fills the whole thing.
Refrigerate the whole shebang. Cut pieces into rectangles (or any freaking shape you want) and store refrigerated.

Now I’m hungry…

 

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