Thursday, August 10, 2017

Green Mountain

I promised to write a separate blog post about our hike up Green Mountain.

If you are local, you have to hike there, you hear me? It's so worth it, albeit a little gnarly with 3,300 feet elevation gain and a total of 8.5 miles. But our seven-year-old daughter did it (hint: pack lots of treats for bribing), and our tiny Shih Tzu doggie did it as well. There was lots of panting involved, but both humans and dogs are allowed to do so when you climb up to 6,500 feet.

It's not only the exercise that takes your breath away. It's the view. Look.

We hiked this a couple of weeks ago, before the wildfires around us (one in Canada, and one right up the road where we hiked) obscured the views with haze and smoke.

On top of this mountain sits a historic lookout with a 360 degree view. It was originally built in 1933 and used for years to house seasonal fire lookouts. In 1987 it was added to the National Register of Historic Places. 

On the way up, there are billions of wildflowers, a few small mountain ponds, and large expanses of meadows. 

Let me show you some of the flowers. By the way, my 12-year-old son Luke took most of these pictures, so thanks, dude.

The little lake was cute, and a breeding ground for a trillion mosquitoes and black flies. Did I tell you that the bugs were terrible? There's a reason we love hiking in the fall, when colder temperatures kill those suckers.

Kai's girlfriend came with us. If you want to get to know a person, take them on a hike and see how they deal with pesky bugs, heat, tough elevation, and blisters. The verdict is in, and I knew it even before the hike: I like her a lot! Which is fortunate, because I've never had a teenage child before, and I was dreading the whole dating thing. 

She didn't complain once (as opposed to my little daughter, who whined incessantly about the bugs and steep trail). 

She loves handling snakes, which freaked me out, but more power to her! 

Here's what the Washington Trail Association has to say:

"Once at the lookout, the views are world class. Mount Baker is visible to the north, Buckindy, the Ptarmigan Traverse group, and Dome Peak rise above the Downey Creek valley to the east, with the top of pointy Mount Sinister peeking out behind Dome. Glacier Peak dominates the southern skyline just west of the Suiattle River valley, along with the usual Mountain Loop suspects: Mount Pugh, Sloan Peak, Del Campo, Three Fingers, White Chuck and White Horse.

WTA Pro Tip: Traveling to 6500 feet on mostly exposed slopes warrants more attention to packing than many other similarly proportioned dayhikes might. Bring lots of water, especially in the summer (all the more if traveling with a dog), wear base layers you can strip down to if it's hot but pack something windproof and something warm and puffy if it's cold up high. In the summer you will want bug spray, and on any sunny day, sunscreen and lip balm should be on hand. Don't forget your dog's nose and upright ears, though check the ingredients: zinc oxide is toxic to dogs. Leave time for berry picking if they're in season and more for photo taking. Bring a headlamp."

I hope to see you out there!  And if you're not local, I hope I am enticing you to visit our beautiful corner of the world!

In fact, if you want to hang out with us at our homestead, we have two more spots open for our Homesteading and Wilderness Retreat August 19 and 20!

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Highlights of July - our homesteading in paradise movie

I had so much fun putting together this month's Highlights of the month video.  It shows our homestead in its fully glory - a thriving garden, incredibly home-cooked food, and happy animals.  And there's a chicken wanting to step on the computer to hop on my lap when I tried working outside one afternoon.

And the hiking!!!  If you like mountains and wildflowers, you gotta watch the movie.  We've been immersed in some serious sweat and beauty and want to share it with you.

Click "Play" on the video below, or click here to watch it.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Playing hard. Really hard.

You guys (and gals): I don't want to overwhelm y'all, but I could seriously publish a new blog post with gorgeous photos every single day.

You know we live in paradise, and you know we work really, really hard, and we play really, really hard.  The Pacific Northwest is a huge playground, and we max out the fun.

I take lots of pictures, and then only a tiny percentage makes it onto this blog, because there's just too much beauty.

Let me show you some of the highlights from the past couple of weeks.

For example, Cutthroat Pass.  My 12-year old son Luke has been obsessed with mountain biking, saving all his hard-earned money to buy himself a decent bike.  I go biking with him, since I love it, and although I tend to swallow his dust and he has to wait for me to catch up, we have lots of fun.

We biked the first 2/3, then hiked the last 1/3.  The total distance to get to Cutthroat Pass is 11.5 miles.  Elevation gain: 2,300 feet.  It was hard and rocky and insane, but worth it.  Look:

My husband Steve, our son Kai, daughter Eva and the two dogs met us when we were on our way down.  Steve and Kai ran up to the summit (yes, they are gnarly, too), while the rest of us kept descending.

Our foofy dog Yoda was a trooper.  That dog is tough, and he hiked the whole way.

Cutthroat lake lower down is beautiful, and a great place to put our steaming feet into.

That night, we camped under the stars, dogs, stinky feet and all, and the next day Luke dragged me up Bear Mountain in the Methow Valley, gorgeous, hot, scenic, and yet another incredible bonding time with my boy.

We only saw one other person on the trail - a guy whose face lit up when he saw us, and he yelled, "It's so awesome to see a Mom up here with her boy!"

Yes, it's true.  I wonder how many mothers are crazy enough to do stuff like this with their sons.  I'm 45, he's 12.  He has so much energy.  And I?  Well, I have enough, I suppose, but it's not easy.  

The reason I subject myself to this heavy duty exercise is because I can see that Luke respects me for it, and thinks I'm cool.  I like the endorphin high.  Plus, buns of steel, man!

Next up in our playing-hard-saga was a canoe and kayak trip down the Skagit River, right by our homestead.  I'm scared of the river, because I don't know enough about eddies and currents and logjams, but with Steve by my side, I feel confident enough.

So one afternoon, the boys, Steve and I floated down the river, while Eva stayed on land at a playdate with her best friend.

They call it the "Magic Skagit" for a reason.  The color of this river, the scenery, the backdrop, it's all fairy-tale-like.

I don't know why Steve stood up in the canoe in this picture.  He'll do anything to get me to admire his butt.

And then, check this out: You know how easy it is to forget about your relationship with your husband/wife?  How easy it is to let your connection slip and slip and slip, to not make each other a priority, to get so busy with life and responsibilities that you forget why you were crazy about each other in the first place?

So we decided to have a day-date in Anacortes, the location of our favorite restaurant in the world (It's called "Adrift" in case you're local).  We took the kayaks out on the salt water for our date, and it was absolutely perfect.  And yes, I do remember why I am crazy about my man.

We did a hike to Green Mountain as well, but this has to be a separate blog post in a few days.  I'll include pictures that Luke shot.  They are amazing, so make sure to read the post when it's up.

In the meantime, the garden keeps cranking.  Pickling and canning season is just around the corner.  I'm holding out a bit, because I don't want to steam up the kitchen.  It's been so hot!

We eat like royalty.  Roasted chicken cooked over an open fire, tons of veggies, eggs from our high producing chickens...

And in the midst of it all, I'm making yogurt, chevre and cheese.  Life is so abundant!!!

I will leave you with an image of a magical place: a spot by a little meandering creek at our friends' house.  I am convinced fairies and gnomes live there.

And, very exciting: I wrote an article on foraging for wild berries, and it's published in Llewellyn's Herbal Almanac 2018.  I am now officially a paid, published author.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017


It might be the timing of it, since it's August and everyone is busy.  Last time, we held our homesteading and wilderness retreat in October (in the middle of a power outage and a crazy wind storm), and we had ten participants.

This year, there are only four people signed up so far. What???

So here's the deal: We want YOU!  

Our retreat is one-of-a-kind awesome, if I may so so myself, and our past participants agree.  One of them told me that my lasagne is the best one she ever had in her life, so that's saying something.

But it's not just about the food we feed you.  Farm fresh, home-cooked, healthy, yummy, of course.

It's mostly about the stuff we teach you: cheese making, soap making, wilderness skills, bow making, archery, fermentation, goat husbandry.  You get to pick and choose the classes you want to take, so if you don't give a hoot about making bows, hang out with goat babies instead.

Also, the other great side benefit of spending two days with us on our beautiful homestead is that you get to meet other like-minded people: readers of this blog, folks passionate about sustainable living.

I haven't done any advertising except mentioning this retreat on my Facebook group, and here on the blog, so it's gonna be a great group of folks who really know what we're all about: teaching good stuff, making great food, building community.

Join us!

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Gwyneth Paltrow is my new best friend, and a recipe for the best herbed grilled chicken ever, plus a killer salad dressing

The other day, I borrowed a book from the Burlington library, called "It's all good" by Gwyneth Paltrow, the famous actress.  It's a cook book with the subtitle "Delicious, easy recipes that will make you look good and feel great."

I stumbled upon in on my new quest for paleo, gluten free, healthy cooking.

Oh my god.

That woman is my new best friend, and I bet if she took some time out of her busy, dazzling schedule and hung out with me, she would think we are soul sisters.

I'm just saying.

Because she writes about her health journey and her own struggle to heal herself with food, and because judging from the gorgeous pictures in her cookbook, all these meals could have been produced on our homestead, she would probably think we Sahlin's are THE REAL DEAL.  Which we are, but nobody is knocking on our door offering us book deals.


I love her cookbook.  I. Read. Every. Single. Page. Of. Her. Book.  Almost 300 pages, in one sitting, drooling over the recipes, and astonished how aligned I am with her food philosophy.  Soul sisters, I'm telling you.

I promptly tried one of her grilled chicken recipes and one of her salad dressings, and I am even more sold than just looking at the pictures: it is the best chicken I ever had, and the salad dressing is to die for, too.

So let me tell you: Buy her book (it's cheap on Amazon), or get it from the library, and do make some recipes from it.  Or every single recipe, which I will do over the course of the next months.

Let me share with you the recipe I just made, because it's grilled, and it's summer and you probably have all the herbs growing in your garden now.  It's so worth it.

  • 1 teaspoon very finely chopped fresh sage
  • 1 teaspoon very finely chopped fresh thyme (I only had dried on hand, so I used that)
  • 1 teaspoon very finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 Tablespoon very finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 1 Tablespoon very finely chopped fresh basil
  • 1 garlic clove, finely minced

(Gwyneth writes "very, very finely chopped", but I think you shouldn't stress out about the chopping too much.  I chopped the herbs, but I got lazy and left some bigger chunks.  Big deal.  Let the herb-chopping police come to my house).

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • zest of 1/2 lemon (I only had limes in the fridge, which worked marvelously)
  • 2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (see above - limes work fine)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 4 boneless chicken breasts pounded to barely 1/4 inch thick

Did you get that?  You beat the poor chicken breasts with a mallet, which is weird, but kind of fun.  I didn't have a mallet in the kitchen, so I asked Steve if he had any tools lying around in his shop.  He did and procured a mallet, which he covered with plastic wrap, and I pounded away.  You want the meat thin so it will grill fast.

  1. Combine the herbs, garlic, olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice and salt in a large bowl.
  2. Add the smooshed chicken breasts to the bowl and rub the herb stuff over each one, making sure you get both sides.  
  3. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the chicken pieces marinate for at least 1/2 hour, or possibly overnight.
  4. Heat a grill or grill pan over medium heat and grill the chicken until just cooked through, about 2 minutes on each side.

Now, I have to admit that I, the kitchen queen and hobby chef, don't own a grill.  The way we grill our meat and veggies is to do it over an open fire, so we did that, and the chicken turned out insanely awesome.  It took more than 2 minutes on each side, but who's counting?

Since I made six chicken breasts (we are a big family, after all), we had some leftovers, which we will take hiking with us tomorrow.  What better snack and protein-packed energy food than herbed chicken on the trail?

Now for the salad dressing.  

She calls her recipe "Mexican Green Goddess Dressing", and I modified it, because I'm a wimp when it comes to spicy food.  My digestion hates it, and my tastebuds do, too, so I left out the jalapeno.  

Also, I didn't have scallions, so I used a small chunk of onion from my garden.  Here goes:

  • 2/3 cup sheep's or goat's milk yogurt or Vegenaise (I used my very own home-made goat milk yogurt.  Now, do you think Gwyneth knows real people who milk real goats and make their own goat yogurt?  I think she should meet me, don't you?)
  • 1/4 cup cilantro
  • 2 scallions, white and light green parts only, roughly chopped (or a chunk of onion)
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (Yeah for limes, since I never have lemons on hand!)
  • 1/2 green jalapeno, roughly chopped (No, thank you. Not for me)
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 Tablespoon raw honey
Combine all ingredients in a blender until smooth.
You can store this in a jar in the fridge for a week, but I used the whole thing on one salad.  Our salads are big.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Mountain peaks, blueberries, goat cheese, and wild rivers

If I really were to document our summer, I would have to post a new blog every single day. So much is happening here on a daily basis, I can't keep up with the pictures. It's marvelous and magical!

The picture below sums it up well, since it contains so much of what's going on.  See my dirty feet?  That's because I weeded the garden barefoot, since I don't mind stepping on slugs.  Except we don't have any slugs right now because it hasn't rained in many weeks.

You see the laundry hanging on the line in the background?  Yup, lots of that going on. I do a load every day, just about.

And the chicken poop on the patio?  Although we try to shoo them off, one chicken in particular thinks she is entitled to live on the patio, since yummy morsels of food get dropped on it regularly.

One day, I decided to tackle the weeding in the garden, which explodes with vegetation this time of year.  Most of the green explosion I encourage, because it's all about veggies, but lots of it consists of weeds (some edible, like purslane and chickweed).  The upper half of the picture below is "before", the lower half is "after".

Here's a before and after picture.  It literally took me two hours to free four of the paths and garden bed from weeds.

So much bounty is coming out of the garden!  It's a grocery store out there, and we gather meal ingredients outside every single day, often multiple times.

Blueberries are cranking, too, and the pesky chickens like to steal some from the low-hanging branches.

I am so happy about the large volume of food being produced on our homestead.  Much milk is flowing, too, and I make lots of chevre and yogurt at the moment.  

Since I'm only milking one doe, I haven't accumulated enough milk to make Gouda or Cheddar yet, but that's okay with me.  It's a nice break, not making ten pounds of cheese every single week like I used to.

We love cookouts by our fire pit in the back yard.  Honestly, almost all of the food comes from the homestead, including the sausages we make with our pork and goat meat.

Our lady duck is broody.  She hides in the Sweet Cicely and lies on her eggs all day, with short breaks to eat, drink and visit with the boy duck.

So far, there are four eggs in the little nest she made.  Our dog Raka has found some of them and eats them, which pisses me off more than I can say, but I don't know how to protect these eggs.

The chance of real baby ducklings might be slim, I'm sorry to say.  Between Raka and other predators, I just don't know if it can happen.

I wish I could wrap the mama duck in bubble wrap as she so patiently incubates her eggs.

Talking of eggs:  Look at the picture below.  Which egg do you think is store-bought?  Hint: Look at the color and texture, and you'll know.

We are finding time for hiking, hanging out by the river with friends, and sleeping out in the forest.  These things are so important to us...

Here is last night's scene, where Steve took all three kids to sleep in the woods without a tent.  I joined them for dinner but walked back home to sleep, because I like my soft bed where there are no mosquitoes...

I am blown away how lucky we are to live in a wild place, where we walk five minutes and get to the best huckleberry picking spot ever by the creek.

Also: weddings!  For July, we have three weddings on our calendar!  And at all of them my little singing group trio is singing for, which is so fun!  I'll put our singing in July's Homesteading in Paradise movie, so keep an eye out for it if you want to hear us sing.

That's us, and we call ourselves "Kitchen Sync", because we usually practice around the kitchen table.

Last but not least, last week's hike was mind blowing, full of granite slabs and high peaks, waterfalls, and awesome company.  Squire Peak (or eight mile creek) is sure worth the sweat to get up there.

Have you gone hiking lately?