Monday, September 16, 2019

Roughing It 2019: Chicken Marbella, Martinis, Compost Pits, & Mice

This Spring when the Malicks invited me to HiHium Lake, I thought it would be a good thing to be with them for a couple of weeks. I thought a trip to HiHium would help me in my efforts to make progress towards my life reset without Susan...I needed to be Traveling On. The trip would probably be during mid-late August and unlike previous big projects were scheduled. (Although that sounded really great, somehow my interpretation of “no big projects” never seemed to match up with Jim’s project plans.) After the trip, Jim had two surgeries scheduled back in Vancouver. One was for the repair of a “belly button” hernia that he’s had his entire life. The other was for a hip replacement. With that in mind, I thought this time maybe there would not be any big it turns out I guess I would be the perfect mark for any scam on the planet. (Maybe when I get the next call from Microsoft about problems with my computer I should see what they have to say.) Sam & Martha were able to schedule most of a week to come up and join the party. As it turned out, I drove up to Vancouver on August 7th and then Jim, Layne, & I hopped in the packed Suburban the next morning, headed for HiHium.

The drive from Vancouver through Kamloops, and then up to HiHium Lake was uneventful (and we celebrated with Hendricks martinis after bringing most of our “baggage” & food in with the Kubota). The next morning Jim told me that he only had two things he wanted to complete. (As you may suspect, this is where I knew I could be in trouble.) The first was to use a sealer to paint the inside timbers of the root cellar. (The Malick family had gathered at the cabin in July and noticed the root cellar had developed a really bad odor that was even being picked up by some of the stored food items. The timbers were treated with preservative and for some reason–after 3 ½ years–this new odor was really a problem. Jim had picked up a special stain and odor sealing paint to coat the root cellar timbers. Sounded so simple...paint the timbers.

The second project Jim wanted to address was the compost pit. In 2017, we’d dug a compost pit since the neighbors didn’t want us to continue using theirs. Not too long after we’d started using our new pit, a bear had dug in from the side and ripped the internal frame a bit. Jim was determined to “beef up” the compost pit to make it “Bear Proof”...his words, not mine.

Jim & I spent several hours clearing out the root cellar on the second day. Lots of canned goods, jars of everything possible, fresh fruits & vegetables, juices, beer, wines, etc. had to come out so Jim would have room to spray the odor sealer paint. Next was the filling of the hot tub and getting the WFO going (their wood fired oven is named “the Big O”). I had to leave & get my steps done for the day. Jim was just completing the root cellar spray job when I got back. The instructions said it only took 45 minutes to an hour to dry (apparently the company that printed the label forgot to add “in 99% of applications, the drying time will be extraordinarily longer”).  My attitude lightened up considerably when I heard the call for martinis and found Layne had prepared bacon wrapped dates stuffed with my favorite Macedonian Feta cheese. I had the WFO going and so I just popped them in until the bacon was irresistible. Layne had made a meat loaf back in Vancouver, so that made dinner pretty easy (and extremely tasty). Sleep was easy to come by that night!

Fresh out of the Big O
Bacon wrapped dates stuffed with Feta

Put together a batch of bread now that Chef Bill (my sourdough starter) is going well. Looks like rain in our future, so I put together a focaccia to go with our Feta salad and hearty Borscht “soup/stew” dinner (after martinis of course...after all, even off the grid, we are still civilized).

Rosemary, Asiago, Maldon salt focaccia from the WFO
After 24 hours, the odor sealing paint is still not dry in the root cellar. Now there are two propane heaters and a fan going to help the process. We also left the door open to help with the circulation. (Note: this created an unforseen issue later...) Fortunately we had some pretty good rain showers, so working on the compost pit has been postponed. Layne made an Ina Garten Outrageous Triple Chocolate a half-sheet pan! Wow, it’s really good (and it’s a really big brownie). The only problem was that we needed to be focused & diligent and eat a brownie at every meal for a week. (FYI: I tried to help out as much as possible by eating more than my fair share!)

On our third day waiting for the paint to dry, it appeared our prayers had been answered–the paint had dried. We put the metal shelving units back in place and returned all the food & supply items to the root cellar. Against all my prayers, the skies had cleared and Jim decided we needed to get working on the compost pit. Collected scraps of sheet metal roofing from Malick’s place and the neighbors...yes, they said we could have it.

Are we really expected to fill this compost pit?
Pretty much got the inside of the compost pit lined with two layers of the thin sheet metal and I developed an excellent feel for what it must feel like to be composted.

I think that this might be also good as a bomb shelter.
Casnes arrived from Seattle that afternoon and of course all work stopped because it immediately became martini time. Steak dinner, hot bacon spinach salad, & roasted vegetables after our prociutto wrapped asparagus appetizers (Layne’s an absolute whiz with the BBQ!) It was an early night with our tummies full, our livers taxed to the max, and a few brownie crumbs hanging on to our lips.

Blue berries, mango, & peach fruit bowl, scrambled eggs,
sausage, hash browns, melon, and Asiago toast.

Standard breakfast prepared for us daily by Jim. After that he and Sam would go fishing while Martha and I took our morning walk...and Layne got a little breather from entertaining/feeding us all before starting all over again with the afternoon & dinner plans.

The wild blue berries are really good and quite abundant this year due to above average rainfall in the early summer. I didn’t have to spend very long to get a nice bowl of them. It was also delightful to be walking down the road and catch the wonderful aroma of sun-warmed blue berries. (But then you also had to remember that bears really love blue berries and you shouldn’t hold that fruity aroma in your lungs too long...lest you be mistaken for a walking fruit cup by said bear.)

Dinner was a combo of salmon and Mahi Mahi fillets on the BBQ. Served with hot pepper cheese zucchini casserole, and a big bleu cheese/avacado/walnut salad...I’m glad my belt has plenty of room for expansion.

Beautiful, bright, and totally captivating full moon rising over the lake in the early evening.

Layne went up to the grocery store (our name for the root cellar) and came face to face with a mouse. Literally face to face, as the mouse was on the upper shelf that held the peaches. Jim & Sam went up on a “Search & Destroy” mission. Sam saw a mouse tail hanging down from a cloth on the upper shelving rack and Jim got Sam ready with a piece of PVC pipe. Jim pulled the cloth and when the mouse hit the floor, Sam hit the mouse. If it hadn’t been the thin schedule 20 PVC, Sam would have been credited with the kill. As it was, the pipe shattered, the mouse was stunned (probably more by the air pressure wave generated by Sam’s swing than the PVC), and Jim finished him off with a shovel. (I know there must be a joke in here about who brings a piece of schedule 20 PVC to a shovel fight...). Jim had some mouse traps and they baited them with peanut butter and caught two more mice by the next morning. We’re pretty sure that by leaving the grocery store door open to let the paint dry, the mice looked down and said “Look! It’s a propane heated den with a fresh breeze...Let’s move in.” After the demise of the third mouse, there was no more flour or peach gnawing and the peanut butter baited traps remained gore free.

That day's adventure ended with martinis (I know you're surprised), my favorite dinner of Chicken Marbella, and a pleasant conversation & soak in the wood fired hot tub...and there may have also been some Angel’s Envy Bourbon as well with us in the hot tub...I don’t remember anymore...

Did I mention that Chicken Marbella is simply fabulous...if I didn’t–Chicken Marbella is really fabulous. The recipe we used came from The Silver Palate cookbook and what makes the dish so unique is the flavor combination of pitted prunes, green olives, and capers. Of course there are several other ingredients, but man oh man–it is awesome.

Chicken Marbella cooling on the inside
stove top with tomorrow's coconut cake.
Jim and Sam went fishing again on the Casne’s last day and even though Sam caught more fish than Jim, there was talk of a mysterious sabotage that happened to Jim’s fishing reel while out on the lake.

Jim & Sam put the boat and motor away, then I joined them and we pulled in the dock for the season.

Pork tenderloin, roasted Possum Korn (corn WFO roasted in husk), roasted potatoes & onions, and coconut cake last night for dinner. Flank steak with roasted potatoes and a wonderful salad tonight after a large charcuterie plate appetizer (with our martinis...after all, you shouldn't drink on an empty stomach...burp...)

Sam & Martha left the cabin early Saturday morning and then to our surprise returned shortly thereafter. Turns out their pickup would not start. Tow truck was called and instruction given as to where we could be found in the Canadian wilderness. It took three confirmation calls, each time the tow truck person needed to be corrected by Jim as to how to find us. It truly was amazing to see the tow truck show up shortly after one p.m. The tow got them into Kamloops just as the Toyota dealership was closing, so the driver took them to Canadian Tire and they stayed in Kamloops Saturday night.

For us, martinis then leftovers for dinner...Chicken Marbella!

On Sunday we got a call from Sam that the mechanic had found their fuel pump had failed and after replacing it and some rodent chewed wires they finally headed back to Seattle.

After hearing from the Casnes, Jim & I drained the hot tub and I baked 4 more baguettes (2 with Asiago and 2 with cracked wheat). Early martinis to celebrate with more prociutto wrapped asparagus for appetizers. Layne made a big batch of McCalls Mullagatawny Soup with a base rice dish containing chopped apricots, raisins, onions, mace, and cinnamon. Really tasty all together. Another couple leaving today found their pickup would not start and Jim went through the whole process again of multiple phone calls trying to get the tow truck on the right roads to find us. Got the WFO wrapped for the winter, dismantled & took the screen porch unit off the deck, brought the water line in after topping off the storage tank. Chopped wood for the inside cooking stove and the hot water stove so everything would be ready for opening up next spring. Items that will overwinter were moved into the grocery store and it was closed up. Martinis and then leftovers for dinner.

Sheets and laundry packed up the last morning for transport back to Vancouver and the washing machine in the penthouse. Cabin cleaned up, refrigerators unloaded and turned off, empty adult beverage bottles taken up to the neighbors, outhouse door closed, and everything locked. Now, if only the suburban will start when we get it loaded up. (At least if it didn’t start, the tow service knows where we were...I think...and there is still some Hendricks gin left in the cabin.)

Mike (with Susan's spirit), Martha, Sam, Layne, & Jim
So my questions are; Should I enjoy killing mosquitoes with a battery powered racket so much?; After seeing pictures of bears ripping off car doors in Yosemite National Park, do I really believe the sheet metal in the HiHium Lake compost pit will pose any sort of a barrier to a Canadian bear?; How many mice would there be in the grocery store if we left the door open during “business hours”?; Will my liver recover in time for my next trip to HiHium?; Why did I gain 5 pounds on this trip?; Would I lose weight if I only had two olives in my daily martini instead of three (olives, not martinis).; Was Carla lonely at the cabin without her traveling companion pigs?; Why did I have to spend 5 hours waiting to cross the border to get back into the good 'ol USA?;

and finally...
                                  Did you know I really like Chicken Marbella?