Sunday, August 3, 2008

Preparing for the 80th-birthday camping trip

Today was a frenzied day in a rushed weekend. We're taking my parents yurt-camping tomorrow for two nights, as part of our extended celebration of my Dad's 80th birthday. We'll drive to Denver in the morning, pick up my folks, and then drive 2.5 more hours to the hamlet of Gould, in North Park, on the edge of the Colorado State Forest State Park (no, that's not a typo, it's the cumbersome name of the place!). The park takes in the whole west slope of the Never Summer Range, from glacier-sculpted and snow-spotted peaks to the swath of forest at their base, and the streams that pour off the high elevations, running down through aspen groves and meadows.

We're headed to one of those meadows that slopes from aspen grove to creek, to stay in a yurt owned by Never Summer Nordic. (For those who have never seen a yurt, they're circular canvas dwellings with conical tops and, in this case, wood floors and expansive decks.) Each yurt in the Never Summer system has basic furnishings, a propane stove, cookware, and an outhouse nearby. It's luxury camping, and I hope it'll be perfect for a family gathering (my brother Bill and my youngest niece, Alice, are driving in from Washington state to join us). The yurt is about 1.5 miles from the gate at the end of the road, so we'll be far enough in to have peace and quiet, but not so far that it's too challenging for my 78-year-old mom and 80-year-old dad. (I should point out here that they belong to a ramblers group that goes hiking every week in good weather.)

So my day has been full of preparation for the trip, including the making of long lists of things to bring (including water and our water purifier), and preparing meals in advance for six. Tomorrow night's dinner is already cooked and will just need to be reheated when we get there. We're having shrimp and steamed garden vegetables over rice with basil pesto--I picked the basil yesterday--plus Richard's rustic sourdough whole wheat bread. For dessert, I've marianted fresh Colorado peach slices in port; I'll top each with a dollop of creme fraiche. Since the nice Never Summer Nordic folks are hauling our gear and water and food in for us, I can afford to go deluxe with the meals.

I knew that the day would get crazy, so this morning I did something just for me. I went out into our kitchen garden and snipped a dozen or so stalks of blooming lavender. Right now, the plants are mounds in full pale purple flower and this morning they were also full of bees, a few European honeybees from the hives a few blocks away but mostly native North American bees in all sizes and colors. Fortunately there weren't many of the often-cranky honeybees, and the native bees were courteous and didn't protest my removing some of "their" flowers.

I brought the lavender stalks inside, and then got out a few clean, tall bottles that once held olive oil. Then I gathered several part-bottles of white wine I've been saving for just this task. I mixed the white wine with white vinegar (using 1.5 times as much wine as vinegar) and put several lavender stalks, flower end down, in each bottle. Then I carefully poured in the wine-vinegar mix and inserted a cork. In about a month, I'll have lavender wine vinegar, the perfect fruity blend to use on fruit salads, for marinating chicken to grill, or to give a delicate richness to white sauces and quick breads.

I took a moment to admire the bottles--and to shoot this photograph--and then went back to my lists and my chopping and bagging and sorting into piles. . . . And tomorrow, we're off on the great yurt adventure. Happy 80th, Dad!

(And thanks to Sherrie York, artist extraordinaire, for suggesting I put up the photos of the lavender wine vinegar bottles. As always, you have great taste. . . .)


Deborah said...

Have fun!

Yes, that's an exquisite photo of the lavender-blooming bottles.

Beverly said...

Well duh! Of course you should post the pics, they're BEAUTIFUL!!

I've yet to meet her, but Sherrie seems awesome...and has awesome artistic sense. I'm glad you posted them!

And thanks for including the recipe, too; what a great idea. At first I wondered why you put the stems in upside down and then I realized that is the only way to ensure the flowers stay IN the oil, huh? Perhaps it also keeps the flowers from ‘damming up’ the flow, too.

Must the vinegar be kept in the refrigerator?

Thanks again…

Jean Henry Mead said...

A belated happy birthday to your dad. I enjoyed reading about your camping experience as well as the lovely photos.

Your Wyoming neighbor