Last Sunday I was invited to go cranberry picking at a local bog. I had never been to a bog before and it knocked my sox off! All I knew was that I should bring a basket and my rubber boots. So, I loaded up my Costa Rican jungle boots and an old basket that once held clothes pins and headed out to meet some new friends. I didn't even remember my bog biology or maybe I never learned any. Part of this trail is boardwalk and THEN.....we stepped onto the cushion of the floating matt of bog vegetation and it was like a waterbed. A 1980's waterbed. I could almost hear Janet Jackson singing "Control."
Bogs aren't all that common in the Finger Lakes region. This particular bog is a kettle bog. Kettle bogs are closed systems, meaning that their water source is rainwater. Kettle ponds and bogs are glacial remnants. Chunks of the glacier broke off from the main glacier and were then covered by sand and gravel. These depressions left by their parent glacial chunks are quite good at holding water.
The sun was setting and we joined a few other friends to forage for cranberries. You have to get low to see them and once we had the search image down, we couldn't stop. I eventually just sat on my knees in the damp sponge-like Sphagnum moss (which can hold 16-26 times as much water as their dry weight) and chatted with lots of folks about finding work post-PhD, the trials of women in science and field work studying Australian birds. Flocks of birds flew over, Red-bellied woodpeckers called out, friends jumped in unison to make bog waves, Anouk (the dog) leapt around, and we talked about what we might do with our cranberry haul. It feels nice to pick beautiful fruit that will grace the tables of many a Friendsgivings and Thanksgivings in the next week straight from the bog to the basket. A holiday that celebrates foraging, friendship and gratitude should include a bit of those things in preparation.
We eat our fair share of yogurt for probiotics, but I love and crave fermented veggies. Unfortunately, they are often quite pricey, so I figured that fermenting our own was a good thing to do with my funemployment time. I've heard that my maternal grandmother always had sauerkraut working in her kitchen, which I'll have to try next.
Round Two of making Kimchi in an effort to increase probiotic variety is somewhat based on what was in our fridge and pantry and somewhat based on what could have gone better the last time. The fermentation is a bit aromatic, but I figured I might as well go for it because of all the hard cider we already have fermenting by the wood stove. Also, I like to be as cool as possible and kimchi is hot right now: #kimchikool
This recipe is a combination of a few I liked that had similar ingredients to what I could scrounge up. One is nice and quick from The Kitchn, another by The Splendid Table with a few tips from Crazy Korean Cooking.
Isn't napa cabbage beautiful? The rose is courtesy of the ever romantic, Subaru dealership.
1 head of napa cabbage
1/2 of a daikon
4 green onions
4 small peppers of your choice (I used cherry bird peppers)
2 tbs grated garlic
2tbs grated ginger
4 table spoons crushed red pepper (**most Korean kimchi recipes call for Korean hot pepper flakes (gochugaru), but I didn't find it at Wegman's and I have yet to go to the asian market.
4 tbs fish sauce
1/2 cup coarse sea salt
Steps and Tips:
1. Prep Veg: Wash and drain cabbage and other vegetables.
2. Cut cabbage into quarters and those quarters in to 2 inch squares and place into a bowl with sea salt and enough water to cover the mixture. I let this sit for 3-4 hours.
3. Chop daikon and carrots into matchsticks, dice pepper, and grate ginger and garlic.
4. Blend paste with the ginger, garlic, hot pepper flakes, fish sauce and sugar.
5. Drain and squeeze the cabbage and taste it to check the saltiness (retain some of this salt water brine to top off your jars). If it seems too salty for your liking, rinse the cabbage until you have optimal or slightly salty cabbage (some of the saltiness goes away in fermentation).
6. Combine the other veggies with the cabbage and mix in the paste while giving everything a nice massage.
7. Stuff the concoction into some kind of container (I use glass jars because that's what I have). Fill jars to within a half inch of the top and then pour brine in the jar until it covers the mixture.
8. Place lids on top of the jars, but DO NOT TIGHTEN. These gassy little jars will need to breathe as they work.
9. Nestle the jars on something that will capture liquid if they bubble over and place in a dark area.
10. Fermentation time! Allow this to sit out for 1-5 days until your desired ripeness.
11. Upkeep: check the mixture daily and use a clean spoon or chopstick to press the veggies back down into the jar. The fermentation process causes gas to release and push the veggies up.
12. Refrigerate after it has reached the potency you desire and keep it sealed up tight (in Korea people actually have kimchi refrigerators to not only maintain the perfect temperature, but to quarantine the smell).
13. Enjoy! We like to add our kimchi to everything from plain rice to grilled brauts. Feel confident that you are making your gut very happy!
We called these witches puffballs when we were little. Spores are released on impact from things like raindrops. For many species, the spores are poisonous, so the name worked well on us kids. We never actually touched them.They are abundant in the forest right now. Even Ari Shapiro noticed them last week.
Today we enjoyed another beautiful day in New York. We went birding with some new friends and they taught us quite a bit about good places to go and birds to see. We might have mistaken a Baltimore oriole for an American robin had they not been there to encourage a closer look. Here, you can see her frolicking in the waves of Lake Cayuga. I am not sure what the oriole was thinking or what might have been wrong to keep her in upstate New York until November, but I am worried about her tonight as I am cuddled up in a down comforter and the wood burning stove is keeping us warm. I get REALLY distracted when birding and not collecting data, so I spent some time skipping rocks and admiring milkweed going to seed. The lake was lovely with fall foliage atop crystal clear water.
Embarrassingly, I am a bit rusty on my gull identification and struggled a bit. So, tonight I am putting an old friend back on my nightstand: Peterson's Field Guide to Eastern Birds. There are many field guide options, but this is the one I learned on way back when I took ornithology at Earlham during my sophomore year and my life was forever changed. My mailbox number is chicken scratched on the first page next to a pressed and carefully taped 3 leaf (????) clover, a penciled in Medford, MA address, and one page of a very sweet letter from my Grandma Martha. My Grandmother was an avid birder, but this particular letter she wrote in the voice of the amish doll she was sending for my tenth birthday. How clever.
There was a carpet of floating fall foliage on the clear Cayuga water, which I could watch for hours. See video in my instagram account: sarahkatherinewagner
I need to be outside regularly and I don't feel like myself if I get cooped up for too long without looking at trees and smelling soil and preferably sweating a bit. I am guessing this is true for many people, but I still feel grateful that I know this fact about myself. I feel lucky that going for a walk almost always improves my outlook on a situation. In fact, my mom says that she dealt with me as people who own dogs and live in town deal with their antsy pets - they take them for walks. Walking me could vastly improve my sass and eye rolling and I was often sent on hikes with my dad.
I also had pretty bad asthma as a child and was allergic to most things house related that come along with living on a floodplain. Mold and mildew left me gasping for air for a large portion of my childhood, but taking me out into the cold fresh air could sometimes help. Maybe that's why I am so attached to it. Maybe that is how I ended up with a PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology; merely because I just feel better when exposed to light and dirt.
At any rate, I am excited to have a new place to explore. Less than a mile from our new home is Ringwood Natural Area. I've been including the loop there on my runs and it has been teaching me so much already. I first found it a couple of weeks ago and it is crazy how quickly fall changes things.
Ringwood was established in 1934 and has grown since. It is diverse in habitat types, including both oak hickory and maple-beech forest types. There is some old growth within the natural area. It is characterized by kame-morraine landscape, where glaciers shaped the landscape by melting and moving sediment as they migrated. This glacial tossing and turning created ponds and ephemeral pools, which are incredibly important to several salamander species.
This American beech (Fagus grandifolia) is nestled in against a much larger maple and the brown wavy leaves now cover most of the trail and all of the reds and yellows from the maples. The American beech is the only member of the Fagus genus in the western hemisphere and only occurs in the east of the Great Plains in the United States. Prior to the Pleistocene Ice Age, they extended from the Atlantic to the Pacific.
Colorful aspen and really colorful new running shoes.
Snazzy colors from last week.
Millipedes can roll up. That's one way to identify them. They can usually be found in leaf litter or upper layers of soil. Most species eat detritus and play an important role in breaking down leaf litter and plant matter into soil. A fun fact about diplopoda: males have modified legs called gonopods, which transfer sperm packets to females.
Ground Piney is what we called this when we were growing up and we used to collect it as a Christmas decoration. In college, I learned that it is a club moss, one of the important groups of vascular plants. This species is called Diphasiastrum digitatum and is commonly called ground cedar. It can be found in disturbed areas or sometimes under pines.
About Sarah's Blog
This personal blog might be stream of consciousness for a little while, but I hope to share my discoveries in nature, food, travel, and thoughts from deep within in my brain folds. It is not peer (or even family) reviewed and is similar to a journal or field notebook that happens to be open to the public. I am a recent PhD graduate and transplant to Ithaca after thirteen beautiful years in Colorado and Idaho. I can also be found in the links below.