Off the Grid  Retirement at our remote log cabin in Colorado

Friday, April 28, 2017

Springtime

Posted by: Rick

We haven't posted much lately. My excuse is that nothing very newsworthy has happened. It has been kind of boring lately. Still snow on the ground, so we can't start wood gathering. Cold, even freezing at night (it is 22°F as I write this), so we can't really do any decorative planting yet. There has been very little wildlife. For some reason we are not motivated to take long walks.

Blowing snow after one of our Spring storms.

It is a difficult time of the year for us. The weather teases us with Spring. We have had a few bright sunny days in the 60s. I want to get outside and start doing outdoor chores: building a planter box, cleaning up trees that came down in the winter, refurbishing the cabin exterior, sitting by the campfire in the evening, fishing! Then, the next day it snows. We are in that seam between Winter and Summer and the weather just can't make up its mind.

April is typically a very wet month. We get heavy wet snows often. But, the snows melt quickly leaving behind mud and the moisure needed for the wildflowers. I've started a Spring 2017 photo gallery that you should visit occasionally. I'll stick photos of the flora and fauna this Spring in that gallery to document our progress. You can access all our photo galleries using the link on the right-hand side of the web page under "Photo Galleries". Just scroll down a bit to find that link any time.

With the melting snow and the warmer weather we start to get sprigs of grass and the trees start to bud. This brings out some of the wildlife in the area. Over the past couple of weeks we've started to see elk--there was a herd of 10 hanging around for a couple of days--as well as some moose. The mule deer are more prevalent, too. Soon, we'll start to see the babies. While the bears will already have had their cubs, the elk, deer, moose and antelope will drop their babies in late May and June.

The fox, who we see all winter, is still visiting.

We've got the itch to take a trip in the new RV. It is pretty well outfitted now with what we think we'll need. We just need to add clothing and food and we are ready to go. The plan was to take off on 1 May for New Mexico to visit my (Rick's) family in Albuquerque. But, the weather is not looking great. I am writing this on the prior Friday morning and we just got a Winter Weather Warning for overnight and tomorrow with the possibility for lots of snow. We'll see. If it does snow a lot, we'll postpone our trip. If not, we will probaby try to go.

Just sitting there ready to go!

The long days are nice. It starts to get light about 5:30 in the morning with sunrise around 6:00, so the dogs begin to stir and Destin jumps up on the bed repeatedly trying to get us up. Then, once we are up, he goes back to bed. Often with eBay (the cat).

Destin and eBay.

The sun goes down around 8:00, but we have twilight long fter that. This means great conditions for a solar powered house. Even on somewhat cloudy days we have a long enough sun exposure to get a good charge most of the time.

With the longer days and the dream of Spring-like weather, comes the itch to grow something So, I've started some herbs indoors. Lynne got me an herb kit for Christmas and I was excited to get it going. But, nothing ever grew. Even after 3 tries. We'd see a bud or two of something green, then they would die. I finally threw away the soil they had provided and used some old potting soil I had in the barn. That seemed to do the trick and now we have starts on oregano, parsley, cilantro, chives, basil and thyme. I've started some mint, too, but it has not sprouted yet. And, we have rosemary and sage that we bought as more mature plants. Just need some tarragon and we are good to go for the summer...assuming they continue to grow.

 

Herbs.

We've been trying a lot of new recipes too, lately. Anything to break up the "same old thing" day after day. Some have been fantastic. Some, bombs. But, it is fun to try new things. Maybe we'll start posting more foodie stuff on the blog!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Gourmet Dinner Off-the-Grid

Posted by: Rick

Who say's you can't cook gourmet "off the grid"?

The other day when we were in Fort Collins for a reunion of Destin's brother and sister, we stopped by Whole Foods and picked up a 1 pound octopus and a few squid. Next door at Wilbur's we got a nice rosé wine.

Last night, we cooked up a great seafood dinner: grilled octopus with an orange-honey sauce, fried calamari with homemade marinara dip, and a fresh shaved fennel salad.

We even ate at the table and on our best dinnerware!

For the octopus, I poach it in a mixture of wine, water, garlic and black peppercorns for 45 minutes. That seems to be about right for a 1 pound octopus. When it is cooled some I cut off the tentacles and toss them with some melted bacon fat. They then go on the grill for a few minutes to get some char. Finally, into a sauce pan with some of the orange sauce, toss a bit, then into the oven for a few minutes while I cook the squid.

The orange-honey sauce is inspired by a Bobby Flay recipe. He uses tangerines, which we can't find. So, I simmer some orange juice and honey until it is syrupy. Put that in a small food processor with some Dijon mustard and red wine vinegar. (An anchovy would be great here, but I didn't have any). I added a squirt of siracha sauce. Then blend this together while adding some canola oil to create an emulsified sauce. Yum.

The octopus is served on top of the sauce with some chopped oregano and crushed pink peppercorns.

The squid is easy. Just cut it into rings about 1/2" wide. We use the tentacles too. Dredge them in a mixuture of flour, cornmeal, salt and a dash of cayenne. Fry at 350° until they start to brown, about 1 minute. Serve with a homemade or bottled marinara sauce for dipping.

The fennel salad was just shaved fennel, olive oil, lemon juice, grated parmesan and seasoning.

Lynne doesn't want to do this again soon. Too much clean-up!

Monday, December 19, 2016

Freezer Biscuits

Posted by: Rick

I love a fresh, hot biscuit slathered with butter and topped with jam for breakfast. But, making fresh biscuits has always been a struggle for me. Even after all the work of cutting in butter, gently working the dough, cutting out the biscuits and baking them, they'd tend to be flat and not as flaky as I like. Then, Lynne pointed me to a recipe for 5-Ingredient Freezer Biscuits and life changed!

Biscuit and (local) jam breakfast!

You can find the recipe in our recipe database or the original on the budgetbytes.com site.

The beauty of this recipe is its use of heavy cream for the fat component, as well as the ease of preparation. I made a batch the other afternoon. I didn't even have to put them in the freezer. Instead I put the freshly cut biscuits on a sheet pan, covered them with plastic wrap, and put them on the front porch. They were frozen solid in a couple of hours.

Now, they are in a zip bag in the freezer and all we have to do to have fresh biscuits is take a few out of the freezer and place them on a sheet pan. Preheat the oven. Pop them into the oven for about 20 minutes. And, we have nice, hot, flaky biscuits for breakfast!

Frozen biscuits, right out of the freezer, on a sheet pan waiting for the oven to preheat.

Nice, hot, flaky biscuits right out of the oven.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Winter Provisioning is Done!

Posted by: Rick

Today, we went into Laramie and did our "final" shopping for emergency provisions for this coming winter.

While we can quite likely always get into town within a week or so of any major storm, it is also possible that back-to-back storms with high winds could strand us at the cabin for several weeks in a row. We have heard that year-around residents in previous years have gone as long as 7 to 8 weeks without being able to get into town. The last thing you want in that situation is hearing your spouse yelling "Crap, we are out of toilet paper!"

The back of the truck after our first provisioning trip to Sam's Club for bulk items.

If you follow this blog, you know we've taken a few steps to ensure our ability to get out in an emergency--such as putting tracks on the Polaris Ranger. However, absent an emergency, it would be best to just hunker down and ride out any bad storms.

The highest likelihood for such storms is in February, March and April of next year. But, we decided to create a list of non-perishable items that we could use to create dozens of meals, and stock up on those items "just in case". Maybe we can highlight some of those recipes in the future. For now, here is a copy of our winter provisioning list. Feel free to suggest additions in the comments.

A few weeks ago we drove to Sam's Club in Cheyenne where we purchased items we needed in bulk. Today, we shopped at the WalMart in Laramie to get the items we only needed one or two of. It was a heavy load as most items are canned. There are some frozen items and dry ingredients too, of course.

And, as you know, I have fully insulated and sealed up the storage shed just outside our back door. Most of these items go in there. Because there is a propane refrigerator and electric freezer also in there (giving off heat), it is staying around 40°, even when the temperatures outside are in the teens. (We are about to get some single-digit temperatures next week, se we'll see how it goes.) Here are a couple of photos of the stocked-up storage shed.

 

Obviously, we can't have fresh vegetables, so we have some canned and frozen. We do have potatoes and onions. They are in the laundry basket on the bottom shelf. I am hoping that storing them in that cool, dark place with the open air will keep them fresh. I hate soggy, limp potatoes. Again, a learning experience.

Items that might be chewed upon by critters (although I think I have the storage shed critter-proof), go into plastic storage bins (flour, boxed items, etc.) Everything else goes onto the shelves in what I hope is an organized way. We are not making an inventory of the shed (like we do the freezer). Instead, we can refer to the original shopping list to remind us what we have bought, and then rumage around to find it.

Now, if we don't get snowed in and are able to buy groceries weekly for planned meals, we'll have all this stuff stored and we will need to then eat from that stock next spring. We will keep you informed.

If you are also provisioning for winter and have suggestions for us, or questions about our strategy, shoot us an email at otg@rickandlynne.com.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Thanksgiving 2016

Posted by: Rick

Just a short post about our Thanksgiving.

It was a cold day (mid-20s), windy (gusts up to about 30 mph at the cabin), but sunny. We took the dogs for a short walk, then started meal preparations. Somehow, we survive in our tiny kitchen. The main problem we have is counter space.

All burners going!

We had fresh turkey from the Butcher Block in Laramie. Stuffing. Mashed potatoes with gravy. A cranberry/apple relish. And, a new brussels sprouts recipe. It looks pretty good on a plate:

Everything was fantastic except we didn't care much for the brussels sprout recipe we used. We'll use our old standby next time.

We took time to talk about what we are thankful for: friends, family, our health, and the opportunity to live our dream at the cabin. We also took time to think about those who are not having the Thanksgiving they probably hoped for, including our neighbor who spent the day in the hospital.

We are also thankful that dinner got cooked. We've been having a lot of problems with our new appliances. We love the mechanical designs and functionality. But, their quality suffers. I am becoming quite the appliance repair guy. The oven had been "acting up": at first not starting at all; after replacing a toggle switch it would start but would then go off after some time; an adjustment fixed that but left the oven unable to regulate the temperature; backing off the adjustment seems to have fixed it. We were able to cook several items in the oven and it performed well.

The refrigerator is another issue, and a good topic for another time. After all I want to stay positive and thankful in this post!

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