A continuance of Poking a Wood Fire (see earlier post).
First year wedding anniversary, and just back from a field season in Turkey.
The other day I stumbled across some pictures of our first wedding anniversary when Dave and I were camping at the much missed Highpoint State Park in New Jersey (best campsites ever… and a really good winery call Westfall Winery nearby too). The weather was so miserable that most of the other reserved sites were vacant and the park rangers looked pityingly at us whenever they drove by. We, however, were having an amazing time and didn’t even notice the bad weather. Dave and I had just come back from a field season in Turkey, had both lost ridiculous amounts of weight from a combination of hard work and dysentery, and were simply reveling in being on vacation… for our anniversary… in weather that was not topping 140º Fahrenheit. After the sizzling, dry plains; the wet, dripping woodlands seemed miraculous.
Dave proudly standing by his tent; the one dry spot of our campsite.
What also seemed miraculous was Dave’s ability to start a fire in that wet pond of a fire pit. While looking at the pictures from this trip and with fire-starting on my mind, I remembered that Dave had made a sort of Jenga-like construction of kindling, had filled it full of newspaper, then lit it. Once that initial fire was established, he put logs around it and the resulting fire was amazing. I’ve since used a variation of that as my “new” fire method, and so far so good.
If I look at it hard enough, it will burst into flame and warm me.
Fire pit or bog?
Back on Vancouver Island and on the road to fire mastery, I turned my sight to our non-existent wood pile. It is daunting to think how much wood goes into keeping a fire going, especially when you try to extrapolate that out to cover the unknown quantity of our winter. For weeks I have been watching industrious neighbors and friends gather and split immense piles of fire wood, filling sheds from stem to stern with neat stacks. Now I was also noticing how BIG these sheds are, and I was starting to think that we could be on the brink of trouble. This woodchuck needed to start chucking wood, and fast.
Luckily our Farmer-Landlord was thinking similar thoughts, and approached Dave about heading up to The Mountain to gather firewood. I don’t know which mountain. I don’t know where this mountain is. But you can hear the capitalization when people speak of it. Farmer-Landlord sent Dave off to buy a wood gathering permit, and $20 later they had plans in place for the following weekend to drive to The Mountain to get wood. Whatever that meant.
We weren’t really sure what to expect from Dave’s wood-finding mission, or how to prepare him for it. What was it going to be like? What equipment beyond closed toe shoes and gloves did he need to bring? What exactly did one “do” to gather enough wood for an entire winter season? My anthropologist friends will understand this, but the expedition was also starting to have a bit of a “hunter-gatherer” feeling to it. Dave was leaving our home site to hunt and bring home wood, while I was staying around the home to gather… I don’t know… something fabulous I’m sure.
Then the day for the wood hunting expedition came; cold and misty. Dave left with Farmer-Landlord in a beat-up old pickup truck with trailer attached. On the way up The Mountain an elk sauntered across the road in front of them, the first sighting of such a beastie by either one. Then they came to the timber yard, and it was like nothing either one of us had expected. Dave’s cell phone photography showed a place that looked oddly like the messy playroom of a giant toddler. Massive tangled mounds of the better parts of trees were piled around the clearing. Dave and Farmer-Landlord started pulling logs out of the piles, chain sawing them into smaller pieces (ranging from ready for the fireplace to person-sized) and filling up the truck bed and trailer. Once both truck and trailer were filled, they headed back down The Mountain, getting back to the farm midafternoon after a long day of hard labor.
Massive piles of the better parts of trees available for harvesting with a permit.
A closer look at the timber pile.
This will keep us warm all winter… right?
In the meantime, back on the ranch… or in our case farm… Little Man and I had our own travails. My lovely little toddler boy was stung in the face by a yellow jacket, initiating what I’m sure is the first of many medical panics of my parenting life. That is a story for another time, but when Dave and Farmer-Landlord pulled into the yard I had just gotten my swollen-faced angel baby to sleep for his nap. I was a mess.
Arriving like triumphant hunters, Dave and Farmer-Landlord dismounted from their trusty steed and posed in front of their bounty. I was impressed, but still distracted by the sting and hadn’t had a chance to tell Dave of what happened since The Mountain was well out of cell range. Farmer-Landlord misinterpreted my lack of praise and chastised me for not being more glorifying of my MAN. He had hunted. He had brought back fire wood. I was not being as adoring as befitted a gatherer. I stuttered out something not quite as idolising as Farmer-Landlord thought appropriate, applauding them both on the success of their hunt. Farmer-Landlord rolled his eyes and looked pityingly at Dave who was finding all of this quite amusing.
The next few minutes were filled with me explaining what happened to Little Man, and then there was a flurry of logs being tossed through the air into piles bordering our property. I pitched in as much as my bright pink gardening gloves would let me, and surprisingly missed being drilled in the head with the flying pieces of wood. We now had enough fire wood to (hopefully) last us the winter… we just needed to chain saw most of it into smaller pieces and then split it all. This was going to take some time…
The saga of the wood splitting will have to wait for another post, but in the meantime I knew that we would need snacks. Power for the muscles, and comfort for the hunter-gatherer-wood splitter soul. These Zucchini Oat Muffins have been a huge hit with Little Man’s buddies at play dates. The last play date when I served these muffins at snack time, one of his little friends informed me that these were delicious and much better than the previous ones I had made, which happened to be quinoa muffins. With the toddler vote strongly in my pocket, and with Dave attempting to snatch these muffins off of the cooling rack, these are some seriously delicious muffins.
Zucchini Oat Muffins
I am often trying to make baked goods a bit healthier so that I can feel better about feeding them to my toddler… and to myself, of course. That is how I came up with these muffins in the first place, since most green things are on Little Man’s “persona non grata” list. These, however, he gobbles up, and will try to snag from his friends’ plates if they are not vigilant. The batch photographed here was made with the last summer zucchini from the farmers’ market (sigh…). I had been told by someone wise (my brother) that you could freeze grated zucchini to use in future baked goods, so I gave that a shot here. I grated the whole zucchini, put half into the batter and half into a plastic baggie in the freezer. I haven’t used my frozen zucchini booty yet, but will let you know how the experiment works.
1 c. flour
1c. whole wheat flour
1 c. rolled oats (not instant)
½ c. brown sugar, packed
1 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
3 large eggs
¼ c. canola oil
½ c. plain yogurt (fat free is fine, just use good quality)
¼ c. milk (same as for yogurt)
2 c. grated zucchini
- Preheat the oven to 350º F. Prepare a muffin pan with papers, or you can grease the pan.
- In a large bowl combine the flours, oats, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
With the oats
3. In a small bowl whisk together the eggs, oil, yogurt and milk.
Dry and wet ingredients before being combined.
4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry, and stir to combine. Add the zucchini to the mix and combine gently. Do not over mix the batter or you will toughen your muffins. Not good.
Combining the dry and wet ingredients.
Adding the zucchini into the batter
The final Zucchini Oat Muffin batter
5. Scoop the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown on top. Test your muffins with a tooth pick to make sure they are cooked through. If the tooth pick comes out wet, give them another couple of minutes in the oven. Let the muffins cool in the pan on a rack for about 5 minutes, then remove them from the pan to the rack and cool. They can be served warm. Enjoy!
Zucchini Oat Muffin batter ready for the oven.
If you can believe it, I was so focused on getting the muffins out for Little Man’s buddies at the play date… I forgot to take pictures of the final product. I’ll be making them again soon, though, and will update the post with the final glorious picture of golden brown deliciousness. Until then… just use your imagination. 🙂
Click here for a printable version of Zucchini Oat Muffins.
A hiking trail behind our campsite at High Point State Park, New Jersey.