Saturday, April 30, 2011

Blowin' in the Wind

Usually Point Reyes sees me on horseback in summer. But since horseback riding and photography don't mix too well, I always wanted to come back in spring, when the wildflowers are in bloom and the pastures are still lush. But how it often goes with good ideas, they take a while to come true....

This year, due to my friend Meggi's initiative, I finally went!

Meggi and I planned this weeks ahead and almost cancelled it due to the unstable weather, but luck was on our side and the day we had picked started out sunny and clear. Arriving in Point Reyes, we first checked in at the Bear Valley Visitor Center to get the newest tips and locations on wildflowers. A knowledgeable guide pointed out the best areas and wished us a great day. On the side he mentioned that it had been a bit windy at the lighthouse as he left it that morning. Now this was the understatement of the day as we discovered later.....

Our first stop was Abbotts Lagoon for the wild poppies

Windswept Yellow Poppies with Abbotts Lagoon in the background:

Macro photography was really challenging, but perseverance prevailed:

From there we worked our way up towards the Historic Pierce Point Ranch and Tule Elk Reserve at the North end of the park. On the way there, I captured my favorite image of the day, an images that characterizes Point Reyes how I see it:

And a bit down the road we then saw the more native grazers, the Tule Elk:

By the time we reached the historic Pierce Point Ranch, we were mighty hungry and decided to find a wind protected spot to enjoy our sandwiches. Freshly restored, we explored the ranch. Pierce Point Ranch was one of the most successful "butter rancho" in the Point Reyes area.
"The Pierce Point Ranch on Tomales Point ceased operations in 1973. Three years later, Congress authorized creation of the wilderness area incorporating that ranch as habitat for the reintroduction of tule elk. Beginning in 1980, NPS invested in the rehabilitation of the ranch core, citing it as the best example of a nineteenth century west Marin dairy ranch. Pierce Point Ranch was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1985, and was subsequently opened to the public as an interpretive site." from the website about Point Reyes

The ranch is the biggest surviving historic diary ranch complex in the Park:

New & Old:

The lichen speaks for itself:

After that interesting historic back flash, we went back on the road towards the lighthouse. In pursuit of more wildflowers we took a little side trip to North Beach, were we found these lovely iceplants. Since they are low to the ground, they were not impacted by the howling winds. But we learned that the iceplant is a very invasive non native species that not only inhibits native plant growth but also prevents a necessary natural dune movement:

Still hopeful to find a less windy area, we moved on to Chimney Rock, another wildflower area the ranger had pointed out. The sign on the entrance to the little trail looked promising:

We saw the Douglas Irises, Beach Strawberries, Mule Ears and many more, but the wind just made it impossible to get a decent photograph of them. Lying on my stomach, I managed to photograph these low growing Goldfields:

Nevertheless, the hike out there was great and the views worthwhile:

The best, and most Iconic view of Point Reyes, of course was from the lighthouse:

By now the wind was howling so loud, that we had to yell at each other and our ears started to ring. With a last glance towards this fantastic shore line we said good bye to Point Reyes and slowly wound our way home.

Monday, April 18, 2011

April Conservation Tip

You are hungry, and you don't really have time to cook or you are not even you get yourself some chips, cookies or a chocolate bar to quickly fill your stomach...sounds familiar?

I'm on the road a lot and after my share of above mentioned fillers I really tried to find healthy alternatives. For a while I had fresh fruit with me, especially bananas...they really smell good after a while when you forget them in the car;-) Then I had a bag of mixed nuts with me, that was quite good, but how many nuts can you eat.

A couple of months ago I went to Costco with my husband, it was supposed to be a quick running in and getting one or two things. But actually I don't know anyone who can get her husband out of a Costco in under one hour, neither could I.

Almost done with shopping we stumbled upon a plastic container with "Aussie Bites" inside. Why they are called Aussie Bites I don't know, maybe because they look like Kangaroo droppings? To my utter surprise, they landed in our shopping cart.

Since it by now was way past lunch time, we were quite hungry and so my husband started to munch on the not very appetizing looking "Bites". With my stomach growling I caved in and tried one. They were not super tasty, but edible, but they really stilled my hunger, even to the point that I forgot to eat real lunch at home. Two of these "Bites" kept me fine all afternoon. So I got thinking and went online to see if I can find a more tasty recipe.

I did find a wealth of recipes and tried a few, the very first batch was good, the second too crumbly, the third....and so forth. But after a couple of batches I think I now found a reliable recipe, that I would like to share:

Power Bites Recipe:

I use all organic ingredients, but I assume the recipe works just fine with conventional ones

2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups rolled oats
2/3 cup sugar
1 cup shredded coconut
1 1/2 to 2 cups of extras such as nuts, sunflower kennels, flax seed, dried fruit (I dried some raspberries last summer, but any dried fruit in small pieces will work)
1/3 cup of honey
8 oz ( 2 sticks)butter
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 tablespoons hot water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Mix all the dry ingredients

Melt the butter together with the honey (over slow heat on the stove or in the microwave)

Mix the baking soda into the hot water and add to the butter mixture.

Pour the butter - baking soda mixture over the premixed dry ingredients and mix well.

With the help of two teaspoons fill the mixture into a mini cupcake pan (due to the high butter content there is no need to grease the form) and press firmly in.

Bake about 10 min at 350 degrees, let them cool slightly but not completely before carefully taking them out of the form. Let cool completely and store in an airtight container. Makes around 48 Power Bites.

They keep well in an airtight container for about two months, they might be even longer edible, but they start to taste stale after a while. And although really healthy and good for you, they are not low calorie. Depending on what you use for the "extras" they have about 100 to 130 calories per bite..! So enjoy them in moderation.