Asters & Snow

Asters & Snow

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Winter Trails!

Woke up this morning to a couple of inches of fluffy snow. Made for a lovely run on the single-track at Hartley Park. I even got to lay down the first tracks on one segment (neighborhood connector trail).

First tracks!

The multi-use trails through the park, as well as the Superior Hiking Trail, had already seen some use by the time I got there - hikers, dog walkers, and fat bikers (multi-use trails only).

Superior Hiking Trail  - can you find the blue blaze?

The oddest encounter was a couple of fat bikers that saw me, stopped in the trail completely obstructing it, and waited for me to pass. I ended up heading off trail into the woods while the female biker admonished her male partner for not moving off trail.  Slightly irritating and amusing at the same time!

The sun was shining and snow was falling at the same time. There was little wind and temps were hovering around 20F. Winter running doesn't get much better then this! With a few more inches of snow the trails will actually become less technical (today's snow fall was just enough to obscure small obstacles and icy patches) and even more fun to run on!


I didn't quite make my stretch goal on finishing the Tomten Jacket I am knitting. Once that deadline passed I slowed down a bit, then had a bunch of travel (I was driving and attending a conference = less knitting time) which slowed me down even more. I have picked up the pace again, and am working on finishing touches. Instead of a zipper I have decided on buttons for this sweater. I am using applied i-cord to finish off the front of the jacket. By knitting two "rows" and leaving gaps between the 1st and 2nd i-cord I will create buttonholes. The buttons are handmade by Incomparable Buttons, are handmade, ceramic and machine washable. For this sweater I settled on their ladybug beetle design as I think it will go well with the yarn I used.

Next up: a lace baby blanket

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

100% Rye Sourdough - the completed loaves

Rye bread is not caraway - though you would think so in the United States. I personally am not much of a caraway fan, but rather like rye (as does my gut).

The recipe I used makes a rather sticky, batter like dough that needs to be baked in loaf pans. Once it had doubled in size I gave it a good stir to take the gases out and poured it into two loaf pans (prepped with coconut oil and flour to prevent sticking) and set it to rise again.

Three hours later (post NMTC run/race):
Marks left by plastic bag I had covered the loaves with - where they touched
the dough a bit came off, luckily not deflating the loaves entirely. 
 Decent rise height for a sourdough (no added commercial yeast):

The directions stated to sprinkle the loaves with a bit of rye flour. I am not entirely sure of the point and will probably skip that in the future. The oven is preheated to 450 F and when you put the loaves in you immediately turn the heat down to 350 F. After 35-40 minutes of baking (pretty quick for bread) out came two nicely browned loaves, that had a nice hollow sound then thumped.

I think I showed great restraint in not slicing into the loaf immediately (recipe says to cool for several hours). I did break down and only let it cool a couple of hours. Yum!! Shared some slices with friends that were over for knitting night and they agreed - a good bread. 

I am enjoying the ability to make sandwiches again! And to have bread as a side to a meal.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Experiments with 100% Rye Sourdough

It's been a year since I started on a journey of sorting out what was causing my GI issues and healing my gut. In that time I have been on a few elimination diets while trying to sort out food sensitivities, and am now slowly adding foods back in and assessing their impact on my health.

One thing I have learned; certain foods are tolerated in only small to moderate amounts; wheat is one of them. Fortunately rye and rice have been well tolerated and so they have been my go to grains. But I miss bread, and the simplicity of throwing together a sandwich when I am on the go.

Our family has baked bread for decades, and in the past 10-15 years have been exclusively using sourdough starter for baking. Since that starter was wheat based I went on a search for a 100% rye sourdough starter. I found some hints in my old, battered Tassajara Bread Book, then went looking on the internet and found this gem of a resource: 100% Rye.

I downloaded the book, printed it out (because I am old-school that way when cooking) and waited patiently for my sourdough starter to be ready to use.

Birth of my starter one week ago:
Rye flour, water, a bit of honey and 1 Tbsp yeast to get this rolling
A couple of hours later I had to stir it down several times to keep it from overflowing the bowl
Once the starter had settled down (it went crazy for a few hours and I was wondering if I was going to have to stay up all night to keep an eye on it) it just needed stirring once a day until it had matured. 

Yesterday I deemed it ready for use and readied to feed it. This meant discarding all but 1/2 cup of the starter and feeding that with 1 cup rye flour and 1 cup water. Within a short period of time it more then doubled and actually started overflowing the quart jar I had it in. 

I had covered it with paper towel to keep fruit flies out
Still "doubling"

Eventually at least 1/2 cup of starter had spilled over the sides of the jar
Happy, healthy sourdough starter

By the time I got ready to make the initial batter for the dough the starter had subsided and I realized I did not have the 2 cups necessary for the dough as well as a 1/2 cup to set aside for future bakings. So I put the starter back in my biggest bowl, fed it again (twice as much flour and water as starter) and set it aside to double. Which it did quite nicely in about 8 hours. 

I needed 2 cups of starter for my bread (No-Knead Sourdough Loaf) so had more then plenty for the dough and a cup to set aside for future bakings. What to do with the remainder, besides discard it? The 100% Rye cookbook came to the rescue and I made up the Sourdough Clafoutis recipe, adding cranberries along with the apples and omitting cinnamon (one of the foods/spices that is a no-go for me). 

Delicious! And a great breakfast. I easily polished off 1/2 of this 8" x 8" pan. Very light and fluffy and I think would pass muster even with those who can eat wheat.

I am waiting for my dough to double and will then bake up some rye sourdough loaves for daily use. I am excited to see how they turn out in light of how vibrant the starter has been.


On (and off) the Knitting Needles:

Sweater for my grandson G. I had started it prior to a visit in June but was unable to finish it while there, so had to ship it. Apparently it is a big hit, and arrived in time for their first snow

The Sawtooth/Wild Duluth version of my Runner's Hat. The main color is Autumn on the Shore. It perfectly represents fall in northern Minnesota. Sadly the contrasting color, while it stands out nicely in the brim, is a bit harder to pick out in the main body of the hat due to the variegated yarn. Still, the recipient is quite happy with it. 

A quartet of Duluth Dishy cloths to thank my crew and pacers for their help at this years Superior 100.

After knitting up a bunch of cloths that took attention to detail it was time for a nice soothing basic hat. Knit with yarn dyed by a local from Great Falls, Montana. It has still to decide who it belongs to. 

Next up: baby knitting!! Three people that I know are all due in April. So it is time to get to work. First on the needles will be a Tomten Sweater. This is one of my favorite sweaters to knit and I think it is quite dashing on babies and toddlers. Bonus - garter stitch is adaptable and tends to "grow" with the user, making the sweater last awhile. 

I polled the recipient's parents-to-be and came away with the following favorite colors: blues, greens, greys. With that in mind I went shopping for yarn and found a lovely wool/mohair blend in a color-way called Kamchatka Sea Moss. 
It is a brighter green then this photo indicates
and a bit greener then this photo indicates
In a few days of concentrated knitting, including a concert last night, I have already reached the hood.  I am beginning to think about fastening methods (zipper vs buttons) as I have a stretch goal of completing this in the next two weeks and, if I decide I need a zipper, the search for one will likely take almost all of that time (limited sources for notions in my hometown).

Sunday, September 16, 2018


While the first day of fall doesn't officially arrive until September 22nd (astronomical season) it is already starting to look and feel like fall here in Northern Minnesota.

While spring and summer are marked by a lot of white flowers, fall is the time of yellow and purple!

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Showy Lady's Slippers

Photo heavy post - the Showy (or Pink and White) Lady's Slippers are blooming! With a bonus couple of other flowers just because they are pretty; and also pink or white; and one noxious plant.

Pink Pyrola (Pyrola asarifolia)
 The star of the show, and a particular reason for hiking this section of the SHT on this day:

Showy Lady's Slipper (Cypripedium reginae)

On the hike out spotted this little Pyrola. Didn't take a close enough look to determine it's exact species. Shinleaf (Pyrola elliptica) is the most common, but there are a couple of other white flowered pyrolas in the area.

Pyrola species
I really appreciate that the SHTA has marked this section of poison ivy along the trail. And the folks who recently weed whipped the area did a nice job of cutting a wide swath through here. Helps keep those of us who are quite sensitive to the oils that much safer.

Poison Ivy warning
The plant itself:
Poison Ivy
Poison ivy is not common in the part of Minnesota where I live; generally isolated to one or two areas. But I have noted it seems to be spreading and I am finding it in more and more areas that I thought were "safe". Of course, I may be just more aware since developing a sensitivity to the plant.

I ran a 50 mile race recently where there was poison ivy lining the trail (intermittently) for nearly 30 miles. I thought I had done a really good job of avoiding exposure until 3 days later when my leg started itching. I took a look and indeed I had a nearly 2 inch lesion, with a smaller one not too far away. A week later I still have some seriously irritated looking skin (though the itching is mostly gone). Last year I had a bad exposure that took weeks to fully heal and the scar has only recently faded.


I completed the Biohazard socks and will post photos once they are washed and blocked.

I then started on a sweater for my grandson with the full intent of finishing it while visiting him and his family. Alas there was a gauge issue and I had to rip out several inches of knitting, recalculate and start over again. I am now nearing completion and will need to ship the sweater to him.

Abate Sweater - Alicia Plummer
I had just enough of the blue yarn, I thought, to complete a sweater but also had this lovely complementary maroon/red yarn so opted to add some color work in the body of the sweater and will also use it at the bottom of the ribbing at waist and wrists. I am still contemplating how to add it at the neck.

This is a top down sweater - a great design for little folks as it is easy to try on and check for size.

Abate sweater showing body and ribbing at the waist
It is never too young to start educating kids about wildflowers and their importance in the environment. Here G is inspecting milkweed flowers and we talked about how much butterflies like them.

G and milkweed flowers