Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Mussel Hunting

As Mali and I prepared to move to Santa Cruz we imagined frequent afternoons sunbathing naked on the beach. Our plans were stymied by fierce winds we encountered on the unpopulated beaches up North where we live. All summer we ended up spending only a handful of days on the beach. It seems silly to frolic on the beach in winter, but here I sit basking in sun and realizing that winter might be a better time to visit the beach than the summer. The sand and air are chilled but sun rays on my skin massage the cold away. The ocean emits a constant murmur, then heaves up a groan, followed by a crash and a whisper as it follows the beach up to where I sit. The cycle of sounds interrupted only by chirping and cawing of birds. Other than the hordes of surfers floating in the water, we have the beach to ourselves. We make a little lunch of salami and bread before we head out to find mussels.

You can hunt mussels around here with a California fishing license. They say only to collect mussels in months that contain the letter R due to the red tide in May, June, July, and August. It's best to go during a low or negative tide, but we go when the weather is nice and we have time. We don't always catch a low tide, but we've always found enough-- sometimes at the sacrifice of getting fairly wet.

Once you collect the mussels put them in a bucket full of salt water to transport them home. I clean them by pulling out the beards (the hair they use to hold onto rocks) with a pair of pliers and then I rub them together under water to clean off barnacles and crap from the shells.

For two servings Mali boils about 15 mussels in about 6 cups of water for 15 to 20 minutes. Then she puts the mussels and broth in a bowl and adds one big tablespoon of red miso per bowl.

I've also used mussels we collected in a red curry sauce and it was pretty tastie.

Mali making lunch





Cleaning the mussels


Got these guys at the store


Ready to eat!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Winter knows how to push my buttons

Coastal California is a great place. We live amongst redwoods and oaks and are lulled to sleep by the tides of the ocean. How can I complain? Well the tricky thing about redwoods is you have to negotiate with them about the sun. In our front yard there is a massive redwood that shades our little yurt from until about 2 o'clock in the afternoon which keeps it a little less than comfortable 50 degrees all day. This normally is tolerable for me. I wear several pairs of wool socks, leggings and sweaters and think warm fuzzy thoughts.

We are off the grid except for our land line which is a phone line strung through the trees. Besides that everything in our home runs off of propane. We do have a solar panel and a battery but it only gets enough sun to charge small devices infrequently. So anyways, I was making breakfast on Monday morning when I started to smell gas. Then I noticed the water came out like ice cubes and our light started flicker. We ran out of propane. And it totally sucked.

It was an overwhelming moment and took almost every ounce of energy in me to not throw in the towel and walk away from our life right then and there. After a heartbeat of panic I pulled myself together and got on the phone with Suburban Propane. The womyn was very nice but said the truck wouldn't be in our neighborhood until Thursday. That meant 3 days with no heat, light, hot water, or refrigerator for our dairy. I went to their office to sign some paperwork and a different womyn helped me. She told me that their would be a an extra $80 fee for a test they had to run when there's an interruption in service and the guy who does it wouldn't be able to do it before Christmas. That would set us back at least another 5 days, over a week without propane and an extra fee.

She must have seen my heart fall out of my chest and roll across the floor while I fought tears from my eyes because she stood up and walked into another room for a bit. When she returned she scratched the fee off the bill and told us that the test was unnecessary this time so someone would be there on Thursday to fill up our tank. What a relief. I felt as if god had given me an apology and I accepted.

We survived the few days in our chilled yurt and I think god felt a little bad because the sun came out for some of those days. We were relatively prepared for such an ordeal because we brought in some camping equipment that we had and life went on somewhat as usual. Living without gas was not such a big deal but the fact that we are still so dependent on the man was irritating. We live in a yurt in the middle of redwoods, milk our own goats, eat wild mushrooms but we are still suckling at the teat of big oil. A wood stove would have solved the majority of our problems but I can see the downfall of fire in the summer or before the fire's going in the mornings. A nice balance would be great of gas and wood. Maybe I'll look into methane.