Sunflowers

Sunflowers seem to have a presence about them, not in an anthropomorphic fashion, but in a grand, exciting way. Maybe it’s the bright color or the numbers of them when they are planted in large groups. Some are very tall reaching heights of over 20 feet but more likely to be about 6-8 feet tall.

As I look into the history and use of sunflowers I am again finding my self in awe. It is thought that sunflowers may have been domesticated before corn somewhere about 3000 BCE in Mexico and what is now the Southwestern United States. Seeds were taken back to Europe in the 16th century and then made a return in the 18th century after being cultivated and farmed in Russia.

Heliotropism

Heliotropism is the the name for flowers/ plants that follow the Sun through the sky. Greek mythology tried to explained this action (my summary). Apollo the son of Zeus would drive his golden chariot across the sky from East to West every day. A sea nymph named Clytie was in love with Apollo but he was in love with someone else. Laying on some rocks naked and not eating or drinking for nine days, staring at Apollo without blinking she turned into a sunflower.

When the plants are young the follow the Sun but after they mature they don’t move much, typically facing East.

These images were taken just outside of Evansville Wisconsin.

The history on this plant is kind of fascinating, for more information consider checking out this link to the National Sunflower Association.

Even with the color removed and the image only in black and white, I find them fascinating.

Art Prints Sell Art Online Photography Prints

Good Birders Don’t Wear White: 50 Tips From North America’s Top Birders

David Sibley, Don and Lillian Stokes, and many more share their inside tips—and witty observations—on the birding life.

This book has become a favorite for me. In this time of self isolation and quarantines, this is an easy book to read all the way through or pick up for a few minutes and read a single chapter again. I also find it interesting to look up an author’s chapter, when I hear them on a podcast or other discussion format.

Amazon Link

Whether you are new to birding or have been birding for years, I believe that you will find this book interesting. It is a collection of short stories from 50 contributors. Each chapter or story is written by a different author offering there own special tips for birding.  New to birding such as myself, I found this entertaining and educational. It was full of good advice and stressed good birding etiquette, and even provided some laughs.

Dutch Oven Temperature Guide

How many briquettes do you use for a dutch oven (DO)?

First question is, how large is the DO? There are a few ideas on this and you will find that many people hold very strong beliefs on the correct use and care of DO’s. If I differ from your point of view, please comment and share your thoughts. If your using coals from a fire or natural lump charcoal, you will need to experiment a little as these can very greatly.

The key is practice, different oven depths and sizes affect the heat differently. Practice and eat good food, you will enjoy it.

I would recommend that until you get the hang of how this works go a little easy on the heat, you can always add more as your cooking, sometimes it hard to back off on the heat if it’s too hot. 

A common rule of thumb is for 350 degrees Fahrenheit,  multiply the diameter of DO by two, 12” diameter x 2= 24. If you need more temperature figure for each briquette added after this first number is equivalent to 25 degrees. I was taught that you add 2 briquettes to this total for 350 degrees.  You will see my results latter in this post.

As you cook you may need to add more charcoal. The briquettes will last 45 minutes to an hour and then you will need to start replacing them to keep a constant temperature. Wind can shorten the effective time.

These are just guidelines, depending on the thickness of the oven, material, wind and outside temperature, you will need to adjust as it cooks. 

Placement of coals

Placement of coals is very important. A rule of thumb is, subtract three for the bottom and add three to the top.  For a twelve inch oven place nine on the bottom and fifteen on top. 

This is purely a guideline. I would probably do this if I was making lasagna or cooking a one pot chicken dinner.  If backing cookies or pizza I would move a few more to the top. Whats nice is you can move them around as needed.

I usually like to put two or three in the middle of of the DO and a ring around the outside of the bottom and make a ring on the lid with a couple in the middle. This all depends on what you are making. Lift the lid from time to time and adjust the coals as needed. You will quickly catch on.

Rotating the oven


As you cook, rotate the oven a third of a turn and always turn it this same direction. If you decide to go clockwise a third of a turn then move the lid the same amount counter clockwise. This will make for more even heating. 

Temperature Testing

This summer I placed an oven thermometer in a DO. To start I placed twelve on the bottom and twelve on top. It took twelve on the bottom and fourteen on top to get 350 degrees. Then I added four more and got 450 degrees. The outside temperature was about 75 degrees and little to no wind. I let the oven warm up empty except for the thermometer for 20 minutes.

This was with 26 charcoal briquettes. 12 below and 14 on top.
After the 26 briquettes I added four more to the top.


Dutch Oven Cooking

What is a Dutch Oven?

There are basically two different kinds of Dutch oven’s, there is the Camp Oven which is usually flat across the bottom with three legs and the lid has a very slight crown, and a flange on the outside to hold the charcoal or ash in place on the lid. On the inside it is smooth. There is another type made for a an oven that has no legs and no flange and a very domed lid with points on the inside. For camp cooking you will want to have a camp oven, although if you already have kitchen oven and would like to use it you can with some creativity. Camp ovens are made from two types of materials, cast Iron and cast aluminum. I have used both and prefer the cast iron most of the time.


What is Dutch Oven Cooking?

Dutch oven cooking is simply cooking in a Dutch oven directly over a fire or using charcoal or hot coals. The food that can be prepared is endless you can roast meats, create stews and soups, bake items such as breads, cobblers, cakes, cookies, roasts, pies, lasagna, etc. Basically anything that you bake, broil, braise, fry at home you can make in a Dutch oven. You can make such things as cookies, cakes, bread, lasagna, roasts, soups stews, cheese cakes, cobblers, pies and so much more.

Getting Started With Dutch Oven Cooking

The Dutch Oven.

Buy a Dutch oven that has legs and a flange on the lid. Check the fit of the lid it should fit securely and not have a lot of play. It should have a good bail handle that stays out of the way when you are removing the lid. If you have to fight the handle to remove the lid while it is covered with ash you will be very frustrated. Purchase cast iron.

Amazon Link Lodge 8 inch Dutch Oven

For your first dutch oven an 8 quart is a good size. You can find brands that are more inexpensive but Lodge makes some of the best quality. I have purchased some cheaper ones and they are ok but not as well made as my Lodge’s. You buy it once and have it for life.

Other Equipment. (That you may find helpful):

You will need all the usual utensils required for cooking, such as spoons, forks, spatulas, etc. However, when you pick utensils to use with your Dutch ovens, choose items made of wood, plastic, or Teflon. Metal utensils tend to scrape off the curing when hungry eaters try to dig the last bite of food out of the oven. If areas do get scraped to the bare metal of the oven, you’ll need to re-cure it.

Charcoal chimney,

this is helpful in getting your charcoal started and it is also a way of starting your charcoal without using lighter fluid. There are commercially made chimneys that can be purchased for $10.00 to $15.00.

Amazon Link Weber Charcoal Chimney

You will need a pair of loose-fitting leather gloves long enough to cover your wrists.

If your gloves get hot when working with your dutch oven, loose ones can be flipped off easily and quickly. Tight hot gloves will stick and burn you. Some people prefer welding gloves, but any good thick leather gloves should do fine. Wear these gloves when working with your ovens. They will prevent numerous painful burns, dropped ovens, and ruined meals.

Amazon Link Leather Gloves

Another tool you will need is a lid lifter. 

There are a number of lid lifter designs to choose from. I prefer a longer one so that you can keep the hot lid or pot away from your body also it makes the boys feel more comfortable around the heat. You can also make a lid lifter if you are handy but I would recommend that you stay away from the pliers type of lifters because they get you too close the heat and do not allow ease of movement.

Amazon Link Lodge Lid Lifter

Long-handled tongs are an invaluable addition to your Dutch oven tools.

Even a cheap stainless steel pair will last indefinitely. Tongs can be used to place, add, or remove coals as necessary. Attempting to position coals with sticks, pliers, etc., often results in poor placement, burned hands, and generally miserable experiences.

Amazon Link Lodge Tongs

A small shovel can be helpful

This small tool, a garden shovel or fireplace shovel, is used for moving coals from a fire, digging a long-cook pit, or burying excess extinguished charcoal.

Week In Review. October 27, 2019.

Astronomy Outreach

This past week has been a lot of fun, even with not feeling well a couple of days. Friday October 19 some friends and I provided some evening entertainment and education with a local birding group.  Sharing views of the night sky through our telescopes. Friday October 25th a small group of us set our telescopes up for Boo At The Bay. A Halloween in Williams Bay Wisconsin. The program for local children included, games, spooky hikes, pumpkin carving, telescope observing and more. It was a great time, the children sure seemed to enjoy it. It was clear out for observing but we were place almost directly under three street lights. Not so good for views of the night sky but we did our best. I brought the smallest telescope, my 80mm that I use as a finder scope on my 15” dobsonian. You can recognize my equipment because I spent a lot on the dew protection; Dixie Cups. They are simple and work well. 

Audubon Meeting

Tuesday October 22 I attended my first Audubon (Lakeland Audubon) meeting also held in Williams Bay. They had a really nice presentation by the park naturalist from Richard Bong State Recreation Area. I have been to this park many times but it was very interesting learning about the history and makeup of the many different areas of the park. I will do more of an in depth review of this park soon.

Bigfoot State Park Hike/ Birding

A three and a half mile hike on Saturday the 26th, around Bigfoot State Park in Lake Geneva was a surprisingly comfortable hike. I have been here before but it is either the dead of winter or it’s a zoo with all the visitors. Not a place I would normally enjoy. Today I meet no one on the trails and only saw a handful of people and dogs as I left the park. I logged 6 species of birds on E-Bird and discovered that the app can save a record a track. Unfortunately they don’t have a way to share this information, so I took a screen shot of it. 

Richard Bong State Recreation Area, Hike/ Birding

After the presentation about Richard Bong State Recreation Area, I really wanted to visit it again. Sunday the 27th I hiked a little over 5 miles and observed 10 species of birds, walked through lots of water and mud. I had forgotten how busy this park gets with bird hunters. The place was packed and most areas I tried to approach the water were occupied by hunters. It was still a good time and I plan to go back soon.


Granola Recipe

This is a simple recipe but don’t let simple deceive you. This is a filling and fun food to eat on the trail or at the office. So many options for ingredients and flavors.

Granola

Granola is great as a snack or a meal. At home or on the trail everyone loves this granola.

  • 4 Cups Rolled Oats/ Old Fashioned
  • 1 Cup Nuts (Your choice, whole, chopped, slivered, etc.)
  • 2 tsp Ground Cinnamon
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1/4 Cup Pumpkin Seeds
  • 1 Cup Dark Brown Sugar
  • 1 Cup Honey
  • 1/3 Cup Oil, Coconut melted (Any neutral oil. Canola, Vegetable, Coconut.)
  • 2 tsp Vanilla
  • 1 Cup Sweetened Dried Cranberries (Add after it cools. )
  1. Combine Dry ingredients in bowl.

  2. Combine Wet ingredients.

  3. Mix both wet and dry together until well combined.

  4. Divide evenly onto two 13 x 9 sheet pans and back at 300 degrees for 35-40 minutes. Place in the upper section of your oven. mixing about every 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for 10-15 minutes. Be careful not to burn.

This is one of my favorite recipes. Use as a snack or a meal. I vacuum pack these for hiking and backpacking and they keep fresh for a longer time. 

Stir some while it’s cooling,  to save work of getting off pan.

Use whatever dried fruit you like. I have added freeze dried strawberries and it was very good. But add these after it cools completely. I add dried cranberries or raisins after it’s almost cool. Try chocolate chips.

For hiking or backpacking I have added powdered milk into the vacuum sealed bag. One of my favorite memories is eating this while backpacking with water from a glacier sitting watching a waterfall.

Today I don’t drink milk so I add freeze dried coffee instead.

*If you do intend to bag this, and want to add liquid.  Make sure you have a bag big enough for it.

Enjoy, Granola has so many options. Please share some of your ideas with me.

Why Food Is Important

When I think back to some of my favorite memories hiking, backpacking, camping, etc, they all involve memories of food and the friends or family I was with. Whether taking a break and having a snack, starting or ending your day with a meal. Food can make or break your trip, especially if you have children or are introducing someone new to being outdoors.

Why Food Is Important

First off, simple nutrition. Just hiking not backpacking you can easily burn 400 plus calories an hour and more if you are carrying gear, you are in the mountains, or biking. Sure most of us could stand to lose a little weight but if you want to perform well and be able to enjoy your day with the energy needed your going to have to replace those calories. If not after a couple of days you will start to feel run down.

Besides keeping your energy levels up the addition of calories can help keep you warm in cold weather, during the day but especially at night. 

Good food is always appreciated but a week or weekend of being out in the cold and rain can start wearing down even the hardiest soul. Having good tasting, warm and filling food can make or break a trip. Especially with children. I have found that the complaining usually ends when it’s time to eat. Later when the story of the trip is retold about how much it rained or how cold it was, is immediately followed by how much fun it was and how good the food was. 

I have hiked and camped with many people in good and bad weather. Most of my favorite memories involve somewhat miserable conditions and plenty of warm food. Eating dehydrated meals on backpacking trips in the mountains or hot chili camping at -15 degrees fahrenheit.  

Food Preparation

Each type of activity may require a different set of skills and equipment, For example, I love Dutch Oven cooking, but I wouldn’t pack one for hiking or backpacking.  For some canoeing activities and some camping locations this may work out well. 

There is one thing that these all have in common and that is preparation. Planning ahead and having what you need. Preparing for and  processing your food before you leave home. Also sanitation and safety. 

Food preparation safety is one thing but we also need to be careful of how we store and carry the food. Being careless can cause animals to come visit and investigate. If your lucky you will just lose your food and damage equipment and not lose a life. 

When we are careless with food storage we can cause the wildlife to also lose their life.  Store your food safely and securely. This of course is dependent on your location.

Please join me as I share some ideas on food preparation, recipes and other ideas. I am in no way a professional, just someone who loves the outdoors and good food. I have for many years prepread my own dehydrated meals for backpacking and I love dutch oven cooking. 

If you have a suggestion or recipe please leave a comment or contact me and I will pass it along.

Ice Age Trail Eagle Segment

IAT Eagle Segment

Trail Head

A very nice, cool fall morning to hike the Eagle segment from the trail head on hwy 67 to County road N. It was a 4.5 mile hike one way with exploring Brady’s rocks.  I used the All Trails app to record my hike. The app said I hiked 4.5 mile and an elevation change of 177 feet.

The trail head has a pump for water and plenty of parking. Many wet lands and the Scuppernong River passes through the area. This segment is always wet, especially with all the recent rain we have had. Large puddles to say the least covered the trail about 4-6 inches deep in many places, but the hiking was easy. The amount of boardwalks show just how wet this area can be. The boardwalks are well done but can be very slippery. 

Scuppernong Lake

As I am writing this and looking for information on the trail. I discovered that this area was covered in a large glacial lake. Lake Scuppernong was a large lake, at some point connected to Lake Yahara. Eventually the lake drained through the Rock River. This area has a lot of history that I will have to explore more. 

Brady’s Rocks

This is an easy trail to hike, fairly flat except for an area around Brady’s Rocks. Brady’s Rocks is a short loop off of the Ice Age Trail. The trail is rocky and at times uneven. As you hike the IAT near Brady’s Rocks you can see the remains of a stone fence. This fence is all that is remains from Michael and Kathleen Brady’s farm, that they started in 1855.

These rocks are the Southern end of the Niagara Escarpment  that stretches in a long ark from Southeastern Wisconsin to Ontario, Canada and over to Niagara Falls New York. The Rock formation was formed by deposits from an ancient sea floor.

Although I did take some photos on this hike. I didn’t explore the area as much as I would like to have. Very recently I developed some knee problems and the return hike was very uncomfortable.

The All Trails app worked well, I do not have the paid version. I am trying out the free version. It was good weather so my phone was able to be located outside my pack for a good signal. Without the Pro version you are unable to download the map but you can share it. Shared to my Google Drive then saved in the post,

Fall Hiking Safety

As in many areas of the country, Wisconsin has hunting seasons and it that time of year to think about Fall Hiking Safety. Depending on the area, hunting seasons run throughout the year for coyote. Mid September to January for most other animals and into mid February for some fur animals. Check out the Wisconsin DNR website for more Details, https://dnr.wi.gov/topic/hunt/dates.html.

The hunting times that I am concerned with are usually gun deer and some bird hunting times.  Not all trails are off limits to hunting, often hunting is aloud on and along trails. Even so some parts of the Ice Age Trail go through private land that is hunted. When hunters are out they may not see a trail if they are a couple hundred feet off of it.

For years I scoffed at the idea of having to make sure that I am seen.I’d say things such as, I have as much right to be there as they do. I also have a strong dislike of wearing blaze orange. Slowly I realized that often it is my responsibility to protect myself. For instance, I often come across people walking on the road in the dark, wearing dark clothing, bicyclists at night with no lights or reflective clothing. These people are depending on the skill and awareness of the driver to continue to live, unfortunately accidents happen but we can all help to avoid them

Tips For Fall Hiking Safety During Hunting Season.

  1. Be aware. Know the hunting season dates and areas.  
  2. Be seen. Where bright clothing during hunting season. Swap your earth tone hat out for a blaze orange or at least some other bright color.
  3. Protect your pets as well. Dogs can easily be mistaken for other animals, a bright color can help protect them as well. If they are off leash they may even be tempted to investigate off trail possible placing you into an expected situation with a hunter.
  4. Stay on the trails. Hunting season is not a good time to explore random areas.
  5. Be heard. I like to hike solo and quite but this is a good time to be with a group and having a conversation. Voices carry an amazing distance. If you come across a situation where you find hunters nearby, a friendly “good morning” or “hikers on the trail” can alert them. Avoid the lectures and condescension that some hikes can have for hunters.
  6. Choose areas with no hunting.
  7. Avoid dusk and dawn. These are the time many animals are the most active. This is also when most hunters are out.

Ice Age Trail Stoney Ridge Segment

Hiking the Stoney Ridge Section of the Ice Age Trail.

Over last week or so it been very rainy and the trail shows it. Large puddles of water, some about 20 feet long and 10 feet wide are scattered intermittently along this section of the Ice Age Trail. Fortunately there are only a few low areas.  I parked and started hiking at the Kettle Moraine State Forest Southern Unit Headquarters in between Eagle and Palmyra. Cool temperatures, light rain and strong winds made for a great hike. The rain and wind kept the mosquitoes down and kept me cool as I hiked.

This is a good area to hike with kids. Easy and wide trails with changing terrain to keep there interest and the trails are well marked. The Headquarters has bathrooms and drinking water along with a few simple snacks and a small gift shop. They also have a small but interesting natural history museum to wander through. A nature trail that heads out and around the side of the building and with all the bird feeders there are always birds in the area.

I hiked up to the backpacking shelter but didn’t stop, because it was occupied with campers. There are three shelters in this area and all are reservable.  In the past I have enjoyed coming here early and having breakfast or stopping for lunch on my return. Once back on the trail I headed East towards the Scuppernong Segment. Other than some puddles the trail was in good condition, very little mud but very wet. 

As you leave the Stoney Ridge Segment you must walk a short section of trail on private property along a road. Easy walking but take care to respect the private property.

I made it well into the Scuppernong Segment before it began to downpour. Quickly I placed my camera and lens into a dry sack and downed my rain gear.  I keep my rain gear in a dry sack as well. Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Dry Sack. It works well as a compression sack to save space and it keeps my gear dry, plus if I need my rain gear and then it stops raining, I can reload it into the dry sack and keep my other gear in the pack dry and clean. The bag dries out quickly when I have a chance to dry my gear. 

You can find out more about the Ice Age Trail on the Ice Age Trail Alliance Website.