Friday, October 22, 2010

Recipe: X-Border Lamb Burgers

I rarely write down recipes and end up creating on the fly. Something inspired me to write this one down. Since I'm currently living alone in a tiny trailer with a tiny fridge and kitchen, I cook for one and go out of my way not to have leftovers.

X-Border Lamb Burgers

1/3 lb ground lamb
1 small chopped jalapeƱo
1/4 t ground allspice
1 T fresh chopped cilantro
1 garlic clove crushed
Italian extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
Allspice, paprika, fresh ground pepper, Kosher salt

Kaiser roll (or any good roll)
Hot Mango Chutney
Thin sliced cucumber
Thin slices fresh tomato

Mix lamb, chopped jalapeno, allspice, cilantro, and garlic and make a patty. Brush EVOO on one side of patty, sprinkle with allspice, paprika, salt and pepper.
Grill patty spice side down on high heat for ~5 minutes. Brush EVOO and sprinkle with salt and pepper on bare side. Flip and grill for 5 minutes. Brush roll lightly with EVOO and toast on grill.

Top burger with cucumber, tomato, feta and chutney.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

First 2 weeks in Rawlins

My first two weeks working (and I use that term lightly) have spent reading dry but interesting reports and policies or tagging along with the ranger, recreation specialist, and the soils and weeds people in the field. In the past two weeks, I’ve been able to see lot of the Rawlins BLM area and some of the area in the Rock Springs BLM area.

Starting Monday, I actually get to do the job I was hired for. One of the fun things will be to locate, investigate, photograph, and document methane seeps. According to one of the oil companies here, the methane seeps are naturally occurring and not due to their drilling. How they came to this conclusion is sketchy. An isotopic analysis of the water to determine its source and age may support of debunk their conclusions.

The down side of the isotopic analysis is that we have it contracted with a lab here in Wyoming, either a university of private. My participation will be limited to taking samples, sending them out to the lab, and analyzing the date when it comes back. I’ll find out if there is a chance I can go to the lab myself. Participating in the isotopic analysis looks better on a resume than “I sent samples out”. We’ll see.

Fort Bridger was a fun trip. Ft. Bridger is about an hour west of Rock Springs. Most of the area is sagebrush, greasewood, and juniper like much of the land around Rawlins. The geology there is different. There are interbedded limey sand stones and silt stones and a remarkable cobble conglomerate. If I had a geological map handy, I could be more specific on the ages. I resisted the urge to take back a 50 pound block of the conglomerate much to Jenny’s relief. There are still 5 ½ months to go back a snag a block of it.

The particular area we were in was an alkaline wetland with salt grass. The range specialist had thought he could plant the area with other plant species and create a protected riparian area. Attempting to plant anything different there would have resulted in dead plants and wasted government funds. In the event anything did survive, it would have been quickly munched down to the ground by the elk, antelope, and deer. Despite the futility of the plan, we did a field analysis of the soils and clays and got an all-day road trip out of the deal.

Soil analysis is a different critter than anything I’ve done in an geology class. Soils are analysed for temperature, pH, and electrical conductance (EC). EC is used to determine the amount of salts in the soil. Temperature is measured at the different soil horizons (depths where the soil changes). Color, density, grain size, and ‘feel’ play into the analysis. In many ways, it is much like some of the geological analysis I’ve learned but with different and specific terminology. Geologists get to break rocks but soil people get to make mud pies.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Laugh or cry, what’ya gonna do?

As soon as I snapped awake Friday morning at 4:30am, I knew something wasn’t quite right. It was cold, not cold enough to see my breath, but cold enough to make me not want to get out from under the covers. It’s not supposed to be this cold in here. I got out of bed and fiddled with the thermostat … nothing … checked the stove pilot light (the easiest one to get to) and it was out. OK, no problem, I’ll just switch propane tanks and have heat again. I grabbed my jacket from the closet near the door and the flashlight tumbled out of the closet hitting the floor with a “squish”. WTF? Deal with that later. I flipped the switch on the propane tanks, went back inside, and noticed the entry mat seemed wet. Not now, cold, want heat. The pilot light won’t light. Stove won’t light. Out of freakin’ propane. Fine. Whatever. Why’s the floor wet?

OK, left bathroom faucet trickling into the sink last night in case lines tried to freeze last night. Bad idea. Turn off faucet. There’s water all over the floor and the commode is full of water. WTF? Back outside and checked the hose going into the trailer. Not frozen. I’m confused. Turn off all the water from outside. Checked the discharge hoses and those ok, jiggled them and nothing seems stuck. Oooh look, water dripping from bottom of trailer. Cool. I yanked out all the rugs from the trailer and slung them over anything that would hold them. Water still dripping from bottom of trailer and water seems to be going away on floor. Why is the commode full? Step on pedal … nothing.

Back outside to kick at the discharge line. Grey water discharge open. Black water looks open. Back in the trailer commode still full. Check black water discharge, check level, it opens and water whooshed down the line. WTF? How did that get closed? Back in the trailer commode empty now. Water on floor from black water tank … connect the dots … bathroom sink goes into black water tank … learned something new. So water on floor from black water tank … gross … thank gawd I really haven’t been using that much.

No mop, no sponge, don’t want to mess up all my towels, and store won’t open for an hour. Trailer cold already, might as well open all the windows and screen door. Back outside to turn the water back on. Heck, it can’t hurt anything at this point. I still have power YAY. Coffee maker works.

No propane, gross floor, whatever. It’s chilly outside, no wind, no clouds, nice and quiet, I have coffee, and the truck fires right up. No problem.


Eventually the store opened and I picked up a sponge mop and more cleaning supplies. The propane station wouldn’t be open until later on in the day. The trailer got a thorough cleaning and ended up cleaner than it was the day I brought it to Rawlins. I’ve learned an important lesson about conserving propane. If I don’t have an immediate need for hot water, leave the hot water heater off. It only takes an hour or so to heat up and stays warm for at least the next 12 hours. The gas can be kept off to the stove and oven. Why would I need that on if I’m not using it except for a couple times a day?

The guys at the propane station are cool. I talked to one person there about making a 60’ hose to connect to the propane lines here at camp. A 3/8 hose will run around $200. That will have to wait until I find out if it’s OK to tap off the BLM’s propane first. Propane out here is cheap. It cost about $23 to fill both of my tanks. It was that much just to fill one tank on Pocatello. After 3 tanks, the 4th tank is free. As long as I don’t get stupid and leave the hot water running 24/7, my propane should last a while.


Other than a rocky start, it was a good day. Everyone has to do a driving test here. It’s more fun than a DMV test. We drive straight up the sides of hills on primitive roads forwards and backwards. If they wanted to make the test interesting they should have used my truck. Their trucks are newer models, fully automatic, and pretty cushy. On the way out of the building to get to the truck, we had to make a detour to grab a couple apple fritters from the donut shop here.

Today was a good day.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Out of the Office!

Today completely made up for yesterday; we sent nearly all day in the field. I spent the day with the weed people. One of their tasks is to monitor, inventory, and control invasive and noxious weeds.

We played with a hydrological modeling ArcMap program tutorial that wasn’t cooperating. Apparently, we were missing critical data files on one tutorial and missing some critical steps in the second tutorial. This was slightly frustrating, but it was something different to do. After giving up on the tutorials, we took off.

We drove east through the town of Sinclair, the namesake of the oil company Sinclair. It is a small town of a few hundred residents with the refinery prominent on the north part of the town. The police are more than happy to pull over anyone doing 1 mph over the speed limit. If the speed limit says ’15 mph’, drive 14. BLM vehicles are favorite targets of the local police there.

We continued northeast along the North Platt River which is a pristine protected river allegedly with excellent fishing. This is where I asked several questions about what plants were what. Now I can differentiate greasewood, rabbit brush and sage brush. The Platt flows north into the Seminoe and Pathfinder reservoirs, through Casper and Laramie, meeting up with the South Platt in Nebraska, the Missouri River, and eventually into the Gulf. We continued to Seminoe Reservoir past the Sand Hills, part of a network of sand dunes, Red Hills, allegedly a fossil bed, to an overlook over the reservoir. If the roads hadn’t been slippery from the wet clay, we would have continued north.

Changing pace, we backtracked and drove southwest of Rawlins to the Atlantic Rim area. I will be spending a great deal of time in this area this year mapping and photographing methane seeps, monitoring and controlling erosion, and taking water samples. We drove west of the Atlantic rim through some ill-conceived wetlands. During the Clinton administration, there was a big push to protect wetlands and in some cases, creating new ones. In this area, there were to small wetlands. One of the government agencies dug a ditch to connect the two. The idea was to create a wetland favorable to water fowl. This sounds like a noble endeavor, but where there are shallow wetlands cattails grow. If the cattails get too thick, the water fowl can’t land. For the last bunch of years, the BLM had been charged with controlling the cattails in the area. If the water were deeper, the cattails would only grow around the rim but sediments would quickly will in the deep spots of the wetland. It seems like a no-win situation. At least the waterfowl are happy.

Oil and natural gas fields are west of the Atlantic rim in the tertiary aged oil shales. This area was not what I expected. Coming from Idaho, when I think of shales, I picture the shales around southeast Idaho. Shales are finely laminated mudstones similar to slate but not as hard. The ones in southeast Idaho look like flat, layered rock. Here, they are eroded down to pebble size. From the main road, the shales resemble rock cliffs. It wasn’t until we hiked around the area I realized it wasn’t hard rock. Because the average rainfall is only around 6” a year here, the shales are not as easily erodible as they would be in another area. The oil and natural gas rigs are not what I expected either. The structures are small, low profile to minimize visual disturbances, and painted with sage-green flat paint to further camouflage them. I assumed they would have been larger operations, with tall flame-tipped towers and painted normal industrial colors like white or grey, with huge logos on them. They’re still ugly, but they could be worse.

Overall, it was a good day. I saw a light morphed adult Swainson’s hawk perched on a juniper, and of course, hundreds of antelope and prairie dogs.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Day-3 Slow day, lots to read

Day-3. I spent all day today reading environmental impact statements, local BLM functions, and ArcMap hydrological modeling. At least a dozen time people stopped by my desk asking me if I was bored out of my mind or apologizing that I was unable to get out in the field today. It snowed 8” in Rawlins this morning the roads were a mess. I tried to explain that, though the material was dry, it was still interesting and, in some cases, fascinating. Maybe the fact I kept nodding off with my face in a book made them think I was bored.

Yesterday was cool. Ranger Pat and I went out into the Great Divide Basin. There are three main drainages here. One goes into the Colorado River, one goes into the Missouri River, and one goes nowhere. That’s the Great Divide Basin. The area has a few junipers and a lot of sagebrush. We saw pronghorn, mule deer, a juvenile golden eagle, and horned larks.

Tomorrow, if the roads are passable, we’ll go up to the Atlantic Rim area southwest of Rawlins. There’s a proposed coal gas drilling site up there and we may be doing a site survey and soil analysis. This is great. I’ve been reading up on the entire project for the last two days. It will be great to see it firsthand.

I’ve been fighting with my water heater since Saturday. The wind here is crazy and constantly blew out the water heater pilot light. I made a baffle out of cardboard and tinfoil and manage to have enough hot water for a shower and dish-washing. If I have hot water in the morning, I’m calling it a [small] victory.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Day-2 Now What?

It’s day-2 and there is nothing resembling a routine yet. Work doesn’t start till tomorrow so there’s still lots of floundering and figuring things out. Where I’m parked really is where I’ll be for the next 6 months. The sound of traffic here sucks but it my duplex in Sacramento right up against I-80 was worse.

Everything works now or is close to working. Next tasks are to get a water pressure regulator and propane hose. The city water pressure is probably too high for my trailer water system and if I can hook up to a free source of propane here, why not.

There are 4 radio stations here: one country station, one pop station, a religions station, and a public radio station. I’m happy as heck about the public radio station. Actually, Wyoming has a really good public radio system reaching all across the state.

The library is different. It’s in the county building here along with the county sheriff, county courts and who knows what else. I drove by it a dozen times without seeing it. The e sign for the library is in front of the building and barely rates notice. If Jenny hadn’t given me the address, I never would have realized it was there. Anyway, I know where it is and they have free wireless. I’m happy.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Shopping in Rawlins

Shopping in Rawlins isn’t as bad as I thought it would be. So there is no Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Home Depot, but I can get by for the next few months here. There’s an ALCO and some other store that starts with a ‘P’. I’, thinking Pimentos and Palisades but I knew neither one is the right name. Both stores are like small a Kmart. The ‘P’ store has some higher tech gadgets than ALCO. Both have some clothes and groceries, but the groceries are pretty overpriced. For groceries, there’s the City Market. It’s a Kroger store and seriously as good as or better than the Smiths back home. With the exception of a meager Asian food section, they are pretty good. The prices are a little higher than Winco but the produce, meat, and baked goods are fantastic. Anything I would buy at Winco is at the City Market. I’m pretty happy on that account. What’s great here is the Asian store. It’s nothing like the Southeast Asian grocery store in Salt Lake, but they have a great selection of stuff and the owner is very friendly. Next time I’m there, I need to get a bamboo steamer and shao hsing rice wine . I have to ask the owner for suggestions for what to do with the tahini I brought with me. There’s also a discount grocery that, I’ve been told, has amazing fresh baked goods. It’s run by Mennonites or some group like that. Within walking distance, there’s a family owned small grocer called Guns and Groceries. It’s an intersecting place. The owners are nice and cater to the BLM seasonal here. They, according to an internet review, really know guns. I don’t now guns and don’t need one.

There’s a Radio Shack, home building center, car parts stores, sporting goods store, thrift shop, the Rawlins Mercantile (no clue what they sell), and pawn shop. There are a few chain restaurants like McDonald’s, Taco John, Subway, and Pizza Hut. Believe it or not, there is a Thai restaurant here. It’s on my [short] list of places to check out.

What I haven’t been able to find is a mouse pad. I’m sure Radio Shack has one, but they’re closed on Sundays here and the Radio Shack is inside the home building center. That seems kind of weird. There is no RV supply store. This doesn’t make any sense to me. There are hundreds of mobile homes and travel trailers here. One of the RV campgrounds allegedly had supplies here. I went there looking for a roof vent cover and was sorely disappointed. Luckily True Value Hardware had one that fit.

On my list of places to check out are the pawn shop, thrift shop, home building center/Radio Shack, mercantile, antique shop, discount grocer, and Thai Restaurant.

Camp trailer

I’ve never camper in a camp trailer before and have no experience whatsoever dealing with them. For the next 6 months a 1976 21’ Kit Companion travel trailer I picked up for $2000 will be home at a BLM field station in Rawlins, Wyoming. Things are not as I envisioned.

For starters, I assumed it would be something resembling like a camp site something like where we’ve camped up in Idaho. Having made a reconnaissance trip here a couple weeks ago, I knew there would be a lack of trees, but I didn’t have a chance to see where I’d actually be staying. The 5 trailers here are parked side by side. The pop out of the one to the left is 3’ away and the one on the right is about 8 feet away. Backing the trailer into the slot was a challenge.

Technically there are hookups here. None of the 220V sockets fit my plug. Luckily, I came prepared with a 110V converter plug so at least I have power. This should be fine since I don’t have anything like a TV or microwave. All I need are plugs to charge my small electronic stuff like notebook, phone, and MP3 player and power to my fridge. So far so good.

There is a hookup for water. Everything seemed to be OK until I turned on the water in the morning to try and take a warm shower. Nothing. The first thought was that someone here turned off the water. I played with the valve outside and everything seemed fine. Still, no water. Back outside. That’s when I noticed the hose was frozen solid. No biggie; I have extra hoses. It’s cold here this morning. The replacement hose froze in a matter of minutes. Great. Maybe if I leave a drip going through the hose tonight, this won’t happen tomorrow morning.

The waste water discharge connections aren’t quite right either. They are on the wrong end. Now, I am backed up to a chain link fence. Two of the other trailers have their front ends pulled up the fence so the discharge lines. Both of them are BLM trailers and have their wheels pulled off. They have been here a while. What this means is I need to get a long hose to connect my trailer. How well this will work on near level ground and freezing night time temperatures is anyone’s guess.

On the bright side, if I have a long hose I think I can get free propane and, most important, it’s a JOB!

Monday, I find out if this really is where I am supposed to be parked. Perhaps there’s a well-shaded site, away from the busy road, with a picnic table, and fire pit I’m supposed to be at. I won’t hold my breath.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Pesto...soul food

Pesto is one of the easiest things to make. It's quick and healthy. The main thing is to use fresh herbs. Years ago I tried making this with dried herbs... epic failure. This is my basic recipe.

1 handful basil leaves (1 large package)
1/2 handful Italian parsley (1/2 bunch)
1/4 handful oregano leaves (small package)
2 cloves chopped garlic
~2-4 T extra virgin olive oil

Remove any large stems from herbs. Peel garlic. Roughly chop herbs and garlic. Toss into food processor with chopping blades and process. Add olive oil and chop/mix until pasty. Done. Put remaining pesto in refrigerator in a sealed jar.

To serve on pasta, put a T or 3 in a small bowl and add pasta cooking water prior to draining pasta. Pour pesto on pasta, add grated cheese, dinner ready :)

*Varying the quantities of basil, parsley, and oregano will change the flavor. Add grated cheese, sun dried tomatoes, or pine nuts to pesto for variations.

**Someone suggested putting some of the pesto in ice cube trays with a little water to save for later. I haven't tried this [yet].