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Applegate Valley – Immersed in Nature

It’s a pretty dreamy place to live. As I sit writing this I’m looking out onto the swift, icy cold waters of the Applegate River and the tree covered mountains behind. There is a hawk that loves to glide above our pasture and roost in nearby trees. A few days ago Jaki and I saw a baby hawk come out of a nearby gulch having just bathed itself. Geese can be heard squawking as they fly over and one night I heard a pack of coyotes howling in the nearby distance. The effect of being submersed in our natural world in this way is delicious.

I was frequently asked by friends and family, “Why rural Oregon?” In contemplating this question, as much for myself as others, I came to feel and know the core reason. Nature. I needed to reconnect with the natural world and have it be a daily part of my life, as well as a part of Sahara’s life. Intuitively I feel it’s important to be connected to nature and I decided it was important enough to remove myself from the urban setting into a natural setting.

Shinrin-Yoku. Ever hear of it? Me either until I read this Mother Earth News article on the benefits of being immersed in nature. Shinrin-Yoku roughly translates as forest bathing. Japanese researchers discovered that walking in the forest can significantly reduce cortisol levels thus reducing stress, which in turn increases our immune system. The article goes on to share great information on how even house plants and nature images can have a positive affect on our mind, body and spirit. What many people have intuitively understood for centuries, science is just starting to prove. Nature is not just good for you, it’s essential! So even if you don’t have plans to move to rural Oregon, get outside and into nature as often as possible.

Delicious Farm to Table Recipes
I’m loving being able to experiment and enjoy a truly farm to table life! One of my favorites is our raw, unpasturized milk that comes from our friends at By George Farms. Every week we receive two gallons of milk, which I’ve been using to make yogurt. Then I found a recipe for homemade cream cheese – wow! Truly, this is the easiest recipe yet. Try adding fresh chopped herbs, caramelized onions or smoked salmon for an extra tasty spread.

The Milk Cow
The Milk Cow

Homemade Cream Cheese
Ingredients: Plain yogurt

Directions: Place a clean kitchen towel or clean muslin in a colander. Place the colander in a bowl that is large enough to hold it. Add the yogurt to the lined colander and wrap the towel over the top to cover (or use a plate). Leave this to drain for about 5 hours in the refrigerator. If you want a thicker consistency, leave it longer, making sure to empty what is draining (whey) so it doesn’t reach the bottom of the colander and get reabsorbed. Store your finished cream cheese in a resealable container in the fridge. It’s best if used within 5 days.

Wait! Don’t make the mistake I did and throw out the liquid at the bottom of the bowl. That’s whey and it’s way good for you. (Pun intended.) With a bit of research here’s the best site I found listing great uses for whey. Praise Amanda the virtuous wife! (Or as the Sister’s of Perpetual Indulgence say…”Ahhhhh-Men!” and “Ahhhh-Women!”)

Homemade Hot Sauce
This is another recipe that’s so easy I’ll never buy hot sauce again. Even if you don’t have peppers from a nearby farm (ours were dried or frozen from last Summer’s harvest) you can easily use what you buy from the store. This is a basic recipe to which you can add herbs or spices as you wish.

Ingredients
5 dried or fresh chili peppers (use whatever variety you like)
boiling water to cover the peppers
4-5 cloves of garlic (or more if you really like garlic)
Apple cider vinegar to cover
1 Tablespoon brown sugar (or to taste)

  • Cut off stems of chili peppers and place in a bowl. Cover with boiling water and let soak for 30 minutes, then drain. You may need to place a small plate over the peppers to keep them submerged.
  • Place the drained peppers and garlic in a bowl and cover with apple cider vinegar and soak for another 30 minutes.
  • Pour the peppers, garlic, vinegar, and sugar into a food processor or blender and blend until smooth.

Enjoy these tasty recipes and stay tuned for more to come.
Don’t forget to make time to get outside and immerse yourself in nature!

(photo credit : Jaki Levy)

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