Thursday, May 03, 2007

the golden state

There are many reasons to call my home state golden. Whether referring to the gold rush, the golden gate, the golden hills waving with dry grass, or the fields of eye candy that grace our outdoors this time of year. Like these ones:

Or maybe these. These were nice. It was taken from about the same spot, but looking up, back toward the road and it's destination farther uphill.

Both shots were on Hwy 180 this past friday, at about 3,500' on the way to Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park. The poppies were amazing. The lupine too, as well as countless others that I don't know the name of. I love flowers, so I stopped at a few points, got out of the car, and tried not to tumble down the hill while taking a few pics and beaming with happiness at being in a field of wildflowers.

In the park, I headed toward Grant Grove, to see one of the largest trees on earth. The third largest to be exact. With a base over 40 feet wide, and well over 300 feet tall, this tree is immense. Stop and think for a moment about how big that is. It's frickin' huge.

Remember how you do that calculation for circumference of a circle? C=∏d right?
Then that means that this tree is near 120' around!
At these dimensions it is a building. But a really cool one.
I like to think of it as a 1700 year old building that is nearly fire proof, solar heated, and home to an enormous community of critters. How's that for sustainability of a living community? I'd call that pretty golden too, wouldn't you?

I did say this was the third largest, not tallest, so that means it will help if we talk volume to wrap our heads around how hugemongous it is. Something like, if you stuffed the trunk with ping-pong balls, it wouild fit 37,000,000 of them. Or if you had a car that got 25 mpg, and started driving it using this tree as a gas tank, you could drive around the planet something like 350 times without refueling! That is one hell of a tank.

Now think about the reality of this community, and how being a living entity it's mainly water. Lots of players, but it's being managed by one living creature. Thriving. Did I mention it doesn't have a brain, or a nervous system? That some call it of a lower "order"? With considering all that, I just can't see them as lower, in any way. I'd call these giants smart. In fact, way smart. Smarter than you or I will ever be. It humbles me when I'm in the presence of such creatures. I have much to learn from them.

I know, this is primarily a food blog. And none of this is about food right?

But it is. It's about my food. It's about the food I share with others. It's about the things that inspire me. The entities that bowl me over with their very existence. Whether it's the intense golden hue in those flower petals or the enormity of such a single creature that functions as a sustainable high rise community. It's the micro and the macro and everything between. It's the images and sensations of living here, that are swirling through my mind as I create food for my family. To put it another way, if when you die, your life flashes before your eyes, then this is some of the stuff that I hope passes before mine as I check out.

Don't worry, I'm not going anywhere. I just had to share. In fact, when I was baking this bread last week, knowing I was going to my in-laws soon, I started getting images in my mind of what would be near their home. How within an hour, I could drive through the foothills awash in wildflowers, on my way to walking amongst true giants. I had imagined that I would see these very items before I did. I knew the redwoods would be there, and was pretty sure the flowers were too. Their colors inspired me to incorporate gold and red in bread.

So two of these loafs had the golden cheddar and red bacon combo. Really killer cheddar from Springhill Dairy, paired with super tasty bacon from Highland Hills, all wrapped up in dough that includes my favorite whole wheat from Full Belly Farms.

Cooked to a nice.......golden color.

I'm sure a few of you intuited that I'd eventually work that whole golden state thing into talking about sourdough. I may love them argonauts, and that big bridge thing that spans the gate. I love the sere hills of summer, and of course those poppies. All those things are wrapped up in my head. Which means they're wrapped up in the bread. The bread of my life.


Erin S. said...

sequoia/kings canyon is one of my favorite places in all of California...thanks for the great pictures of this magical place!

Leena said...

I've been checking for days waiting for a new post, but I must say, this was worth the wait. Anytime you could take such a beautiful analogy like that and throw in some bacon, well, that's a winner in my book. Thanks for the inspiration!

Monkey Wrangler said...

Erin: Yeah, the place is magical. For me it's one of those places on earth where (as Edward Abbey put it) the tangible and the mythical become the same. I'm hooked.

Leena: Thanks for the compliments.

Sorry to keep you in suspense. There's been a lot of new baby prep around the ranch. In fact, my posts might become a bit more simplistic in the near future depending on the severity of the inevitable lack of sleep. Wish me luck.

Probably the more I hear from folks like yourself, the more I'll feel compelled to put up something, even if its just tiny little toes.

Hey, did you ever make any......scones, muffins was it, for trade?

Vanessa said...

california Poppies...god how I miss them. I actually planted some here last year. They didn't bloom until September. But this year they are back. I figure if they'll grow in the mountains they'll grow here...but then I don't think I can grow a redwood here...hmmm...I'd say that's a pickle.

cookiecrumb said...

Oh, SMW: I was going to e-mail you this privately, but I want to brag to all your readers.
Thank you for coming by and bringing me the special tomato plants your father-in-law started from seedlies in Reedley!
I'm so sorry I didn't offer you any of the cheap Spanish champagne Cranky and I were drinking, but 1) it was early in the day; 2) you were going for a run; 3) it was moving day, and I needed all the hoochy juice I could get; 4) it was my birthday; 5) where were my manners?
The tomatoes are still healthy; still in their plastic pots. We are buying some sacks of soil amendment tomorrow (haven't started composting yet) and will get them in the ground.
I love reading about your field trips. So glad I was one of them.

Callipygia said...

That was a beautiful ode to the Bay! While I am not a huge bread fan... all of that "goodness" undoubtedly made that bread the best. I miss those smiling radiant poppy faces.

Leena said...

No biscuits yet made for trade! I'm getting my Masters in Gastronomy down here in Australia, so the massive homework and 800 word essay a week has prevented me from doing so...and I will admit, I am a little scared of rejection!
But as soon as time permits, I will haul my butt over to the Barossa Valley Farmers Market with my best baked good and hand them out. Create a demand and then demand the goods. That's my plan!

HipWriterMama said...

My poppies are starting to pop out of the ground now. Orange red. I can't wait until they bloom. Love the pretty pictures!

Stacie said...

ah, like a walk in the woods...
in my neck o' the prairie, there is no wild yeast that creates sour dough! egads, no? I tried a starter, and it never got sour... they call it Amish Friendship Bread here, when you keep the slime in the fridge, waiting for that next batch of (not sour) bread.

Monkey Wrangler said...

Vanessa: Hello! You might be surprised where you could grow a redwood...well at least for a little bit, like 30-50 years at least. Where is here?

Cookie: Your manners were fine, don't stress. And I look forward to a field trip to see them 'maters in the ground. Thanks for bragging.

Calli: You don't even like bread that much and yet you come by the ranch so often? I'm flattered.

Leena: Creating a demand is a good way to do it. I've been bringing things to share with others since the beginning of the year. I tend to give out to my favorite vendors and other farmers' market staff. Plug them with goodness first, yes, then they will trust that whatever you bring for barter won't suck, or if it's not to their liking, they're more apt to politely say "you know that was good, but I really like your......" Good luck.

Hip: Do you ever eat popcorn while watching the poppies pop?

Stacie: You do the legwork on how I can ship you some starter without alarming the authorities by shipping a foamy white perishable liquid, and a taste of the bay area is yours.

Freya and Paul said...

As always you tied your interesting observations into your great looking food!

Tea said...

I love, love, love this post! Life and food are irrevocably connected. Of course, now you've got me missing California... (sigh).

Moonbear said...

Thanks for taking us all on your golden way. Lovely pics, lovely bread, and lovely you.

Monkey Wrangler said...

F&P: Thanks for observing my observances.

Tea: Connected indeed. And don't you worry about missing Cali. It will be here when you return. So will I. Lets do a hike then huh?

Moonbear: Thanks for dropping by and for your sweet words. I feel the love.