Tuesday, October 11, 2011

20/20 hindsight

A quick departure from farm chat.

Our son, who possesses a unique and engaging intellect and sometimes surprising empathy but has been fiercely frustrated in school, was recently diagnosed with a vision disorder called Convergence Insufficiency. The condition is just what it sounds like - the two eyes do not work together well enough.

Convergence Insufficiency can have dramatic repercussions. Headaches, dizziness, blurred vision. In Dylan's case, believe it or not, he has seen pretty much everything closer than 4 feet in double-vision his whole life. Reading, writing, computing, conversation - if he relaxes, everything within arm's length and a bit beyond all goes double.

He thought everyone saw this way.

The good news is, it's treatable and curable. He started eye therapy with an opthamologist yesterday and with daily exercises, he should be able to train his eyes within a year. But when I think back to the myriad "talks" about his distractability, his disengagement, his daydreaming, to the frustration his teachers expressed at his "lack of interest"...tears inevitably well up.

But, I'm looking forward, not back.

Convergence insufficiency is a largely undiagnosed phenomenon. School screenings and sometimes even regular eye exams don't catch it. As much as 20% of the population is suffering from it to some degree and most of them don't know it.

If you experience any of the symptoms, ask for a test. Most importantly, have your children tested when they're in elementary school. School's hard enough, they shouldn't have to spend all their energy just to see.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

And now for something completely different.

It wasn't that long ago that I last posted (now, seriously, in dinosaur years). Just a few weeks, but oh what a difference a few weeks can make sometimes.

Actually, the Grace-Wells family has watched our life somersault in just about 6 weeks. We're still a little breathless and playing more than a little catch-up.

We all know Life happens in threes, so here's ours, and they're wing-dingers.

Dylan, through some divine intervention, was accepted out-
of-cycle and a year early, into a science and math high school that is literally at the other end of the ferry dock. He's off the island and in an entirely new, and wonderfully diverse and interesting, gene pool and loving it. BTW, funny what happens when you treat a kid like a success instead of a failure. Just saying.

I started working. From home. Contract. We'll see.

We wrestled our retirement funds out of the hands of hedge-fund managers, happily (happily? hmm. willingly) paid Uncle Sam, and are now the proud owners of a Belltown condo, (where yours truly is currently balcony sitting while attending to her blog).

Just like that, our life has been transformed. We haven't even quite caught up with our own decisions yet.

But, for the first time, in a long time, we are all very, very happy. We live on the island, but our lives have expanded. And that, I think, just might be the Key to Happiness.

Tonight we enjoyed our traditional Friday night Pizza/popcorn/movie night "in the city" - the first time we have all been together overnight in the apartment - and it was ridiculous fun. Between a school that recognizes and celebrates unique intellect and quirkiness and a city get-away that feels like vacation is just a key turn away, Dylan is approaching the most joyous person I know. Mark gets to work long hours and discard the commute.

I get to sit on a wrought-iron half-moon balcony, wishing
it weren't too late for the monorail to zoom by and watching ALL MANNER of drama unfold beneath me. I have to insert that it really is fascinating, even now, how unbelievably rarely people look up - even when the glow of a laptop is involved.

A firetruck has come and gone. I think someone might have expired essentially right in front of me but I hadn't understood what was happening. Police cars have driven off. Couples have quarreled and wheels have squealed. Many have trod below.

Would I live here every day? No way. But what an escape hatch/laboratory/retreat. Ever so much better than reacting to a statement in the mail every 3 months.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, we have 2 pigs now and Tiffany has managed, after several disheartening tries, to build a pen that will hold them. So, that's good.

Living on a bucolic, verdant island, raising meat and produce, with a tiny escape hatch in the one of greatest cities on the planet? Yup, we are the lucky people.


Monday, September 19, 2011

Fall descends

I guess it's time for the annual "wow, suddenly it's fall" post. This time it seemed to happen faster than ever. Summer was brief, very brief, but sweet. And the weather gods were kind to our annual picnic - 9 days ago, the day of our event - it was 85'. This past Saturday, the mercury struggled to reach the low 60s. September is nothing if not unpredictable 'round here.

But, fall means bounty and this year we have it. Our greenhouse is struggling to
get hot enough to ripen all the tomatoes, but the space is brimming with plants at least. The garden is thigh-high with pumpkins and beautiful yellow zephyr zuccs, and bushels of greens happy in the cooler weather.

We've harvested lamb, and run raccoons off from the henhouse. Time to start Middy on milking so we can venture into cheesemaking. Later today, our first piglets arrive.

Yup, it's fall.

Sunrise over Quartermaster Harbor, early Sept.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The best friends, the brightest blooms

Just a short note, post annual Stop Sign Picnic, to say that I can't imagine anyone on the planet has more beautiful, more lovely, more colorful, and more vibrant friends than I do.

One day each year almost all of them come together on my little patch of paradise to celebrate love, abundance, life.

There are all sorts of beautiful flowers out there, all manner of deeply valued friends.

I'm so glad mine are dahlias, every one.

Friday, September 2, 2011

The best age

When I was a new mom, people used to ask me all the time "what's the best age so far?" When my son was an infant, I'd answer that even with all the sleep deprivation, the diapers, the crying, I couldn't imagine a sweeter, more miraculous time than being the brand-new mom of a brand-new person.

Then he started crawling, walking, and talking and I was forced to amend. No, I'd say, the infant year was amazing, but nothing beats watching this little blob turn into a person, a person with bright wide eyes and an insatiable curiosity. Who feels, and listens, and watches, laughs from the belly and cries like he means it.

But, then my person started reading and counting and putting this and that together, in his mind or in 3D. Well, I'd say, when people asked, the infant years - they're miraculous, and those toddler years, they're amazing. But, I have to say that these school-age years - wow. Letting go each morning as he walks through the big blue doors, watching him in action in the classroom when I volunteer, hearing the day through his stories...nothing beats that. These years are the best.

A funny thing happens when your kid starts middle school, though. People stop asking you what years are the best. I guess the assumption is that they're obviouly behind you. That parenting a middle schooler is just plain hard, something you just have to get through and the best you can hope for is to come out the other side, both of you relatively unscathed.

Parenting a middle schooler is hard. Hard in ways that no one really tells you. Hard in ways that keep your stomach in knots at 2AM, hard in ways that make you doubt every choice you ever made, hard in ways that make you doubt the future you thought you wanted.

But, parenting is not supposed to be easy. Nothing that's worth anything is easy, and what's worth more than this life you've created, this gift you have given the world? What deserves more doubt and more risk and more sacrifice than the human being that once lived inside you, breathing your air, feasting on your body, growing from your cells?

This summer, I had the privilege of watching my son unzip his cocoon and gently, ever so gracefully, unimaginably bravely unfold his most spectacular butterfly wings. Physically, socially, emotionally stretching, fluttering, and soaring to new heights, as his father and I took a silent, humble step backward.

And now he embarks on a whole new journey, an enviable adventure of his very own. A wonderful new school, a whole new grade, an entirely new population of friends and colleagues, a new paradigm in learning. Best of all, a brand new, radiant smile.

Parenting a middle schooler is hard.

But, what else can I say? These are the best years.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Food security

Yay for the foodsaver - what a fabulous little device! There is something primal about saving food for the winter. Putting summer's output away for leaner times. And coming in from the garden like Miss America with a giant bouquet of nutritious greens sure gives me a luxurious feeling of abundance.

But not everyone is so lucky. Most people don't have the ability to grow and store their own food, and many people don't even get enough to eat, period. According to the USDA, an estimated 50 million people, 17 million of which are children, live in food-insecure households in America. In fact, nearly 15% of American households are food insecure. Fifteen percent.

That's...well, I was going to say "amazing" because the statistic is so stunning. But, it's not amazing. It's horrible. It's inexcusable. How is it possible that nearly one-sixth of our citizens do not have access to enough food?

Just across the border in Canada, food insecurity drops to 9%. Still too high, but only about 60% of what we tolerate here.

I'm so fortunate to live on 5 fertile acres in a mild climate, where I can raise my own meat and vegetables and help feed the people a
round me. This time of year, my grocery bill plunges and my family eats what's available outside. Part of how I say thank you to the universe is to share our bounty - this year, we're donating some of our produce to a girls camp that called yesterday. Two nights ago, Mark played a benefit to raise money for our local farmers market's food assistance program.

Next time you're at the farmers market or in your favorite grocery store, co
nsider picking up a few items for your local food bank. Better yet, take a cue from my step-mom who has been feeding breakfast to those in need once a week since I've known her - and I've known her a long, long time.

No one should go hungry in a nation with so much.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

First real harvest day of 2011

Of course, we've been eating out of the garden for over a month now - lots of kale, chard, salad mix, peas, and carrots (if you need 101 ways to use kale, I am your gal). But, with the arrival of a UPS truck bearing a Foodsaver imminent this afternoon, today is the day when a whole row of kale and a whole row of chard get harvested, blanched, and frozen for meals for the rest of the year, and the ground they leave behind gets prepped for Round 2.

Two kinds of crunchy carrots are yummy as snacks and will liven up our soups and sauces for months to come.

Even though the battle with
the weeds is never-ending, this August feels like success, not failure. We are by-passing the produce section of Thriftway, selling a little goodness to our neighbors, and looking forward to successional harvests as spring and summer crops give way to fall and winter.

When we transplanted these tiny needles of onions from the greenhouse into the garden 2 months ago, I was sure we were wasting our time. They were microscopic and immediately flopped over into a death pose. Today - they sure stir-fry up great!

It does really take a village - at least
a husband who weeds, a son who weed-whacks, and Tiffany the awesome farmhand, shown here pausing among the pumpkin plants to check in with the outside world.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Ode to the egg

It's worth returning to the egg for another examination. The marketers got it quite right when they proclaimed it not just edible but incredible so many years ago. But, recent research and the rise of both small family farms and even backyard poultry show us that the egg's place in our diet is on the rise.

The egg is the backbone of most of the tiny operations here on our island, mirroring, I suspect, the context in the surrounding Puget Sound region, although certainly not the larger breadbasket of the state, where monoculture still dominates. It is the egg, usually brown or a rainbow collection, that brings folks to the farm stands, the egg that sells out first at the farmers market. For us, it is the egg that brings people up our driveway when the stand's cooler is empty, inquiring with hope and hesitation, whether perhaps by chance are there any just boxed or lying in wait in their collection basket?

And for good reason. It's almost safe to say that there's not really any such thing as "the egg" anymore. There's growing awareness out there that the factory eggs sitting on the supercolossalwonderstore shelf are simply not the same food as the hand-washed beauties resting in a cooler at the end of your neighbor's lane. My son refuses to eat eggs in restaurants now. They are pale shadows of what he gets at home and Dylan claims they are simply taste free.

Eggs are high in protein and contain every major nutrient except vitamin C. Farm fresh eggs from free-range pastured hens not only look and taste a world away from factory eggs, they are dramatically lower in both cholesterol and fat. All this makes them just about the perfect food, and we haven't even touched on their versatility yet!

What else can you fry up for breakfast, slice onto your just-picked greens for a terrific lunch salad, whip up and bake in a crust with veggies and a little ham for dinner, then fold into flour and chocolate chips and a little (OK, a lot) sugar to munch on for a treat?

To celebrate, I think it's time for another quiche recipe, especially since the Fried Green Tomato Quiche gets so much traffic. Quiche is perfect for any meal of the day and also reheats well - so make 2!

Enjoy this one with a chilled crisp rose or Cote du Rhone and some mixed greens drizzled in herbed olive oil and a splash of red wine vinegar
. The perfect meal to highlight the bounty of August ~

SSF sauteed greens and bacon quiche

Preheat the oven to 425.

Prepare your favorite pie crust or roll out a store-bought one and smooth it over a lightly oiled pie pan, crimping the edges. Bake until just lightly golden, 5-7 minutes. Remove and set aside.

Wash and cut the spine out of 1 bunch of c
hard or kale. Don't dry. Chop roughly and saute with 2 cloves chopped garlic in about 1-2 TBS olive oil until wilted, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile whisk 3 large eggs with 1/3 C whole milk or half and half - or some co
mbination thereof.

Chop 1/2 pound crispy-cooked bacon into bits.

Crumble about 1/3-1/2 C of feta cheese over the bottom of your pie crust. Sprinkle the bacon bits next. Spread the wilted greens over both, then pour in the egg mixture.

Bake for 15 minutes, then turn the oven down to 350 and bake for another 10-15. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before cutting and serving.

From our flock to yours - enjoy!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Backyard geology

We had all manner of fun while Grandpa visited, bringing in friends old and new to share the fruits of a very local food chain and enjoy the perks of island living in the summertime. But perhaps the highlight of the trip was a 36-hour detour to the Scablands of Washington. We figured a geologically-focused jaunt was in order to take advantage of my dad's expertise and throw in some home-grown science for Dylan.

What I don't think we were qui
te prepared for was just how stunningly beautiful it all was. Like my reaction to the 12-hour drive to Yellowstone, I couldn't help feeling frustrated with myself for letting such a close and easy destination go unexplored for so long - especially one that offers a breathtaking number of recreational options and decidedly different weather than our side of the state.

The Scablands are an area in
north central Washington, roughly south of Grand Coulee Dam, that was formed during a massive flooding event, so exhibits some fascinating - and beautiful - geology. The result of this ancient event is an area covered almost entirely in basalt, with giant boulders and ribbons of granite that sort of got dropped in. The practical result for us non-scientists or rock-hounds is a vast area covered in what must be hundreds of lakes.

Deep azure lakes surrounded by golden grasses and rugged, striped canyons and cliffs - a stark departure from the lush tanglewood of our misty isle.

We made lots of roadside stops, includin
g to the Petrified Forest state park we've zoomed by a hundred times as we cross the Columbia. Turned out to be just off the road (a fact you'd never gleen from the highway sign) and offered up vast vistas, very cool geology, and a little kitsch to boot.

We drank in sight after sight, marveling at the lack of population and sheer volume of parks and other publicly-owned lands, and finally decided to make it an overnighter, ending the day at quaintly-named Electric City near Grand Coulee and scoring a jaw-dropping motel room for the night.

Perfect. Scablands - you'll see more of us when the clouds come back to Vashon in the fall.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Summer scenes from SSF

Although it may appear that I never tire of blabbing on about the weather, I have, in fact, run out of things to say about the dismal grayness of this most miserable of years.

Which works out jus
t great, because due to the magical powers of my father, summer arrived on an Air Canada flight from Toronto last week and all is well! True to his promise, Grandpa brought temperatures in the 80s and a bright yellow orb to accompany them - and you have never seen so many smiling faces as on our little island of Vashon. The magician has returned to his native land, but left behind a precious gift indeed.

Thanks Dad!

To celebrate, fewer words and more photos of the bounty of summer. Happy animals, new babies, and the moments that help remind us
why we do this.

Middy had twins in July! Yay Middy! Here they are about 2 hours old, a boy and a girl. Way to go, Mama ~

After our Great American Road Trip and before Grandpa visited, Dylan taught his pal Zach and Tiffany the Awesome Farmhand how to form, press, and grill tortillas.

Ta-da! Next cooking lesson: ravioli!

What's more promising than baby lettuces in June?

Animals enjoy a well-earned reward on Wrangling Day.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Road Trip - the final leg

After a lovely drive from Yosemite, we were delighted to arrive at our San Francisco hostel in the middle of beautiful, leafy Fort Mason a little before nightfall. The hostel is one of many stucco and red-tiled low-slung buildings surrounded by beautiful gardens and perched on the Bay just a block from Ghirardelli Square. We had dinner at some tourist trap nearby and collapsed after a full day that started with hiking, included a lot of walking around exploring, and ended with the drive from Yosemite to the City by the Bay.

The next morning we said our good-byes to cousin Jackson. Mark drove him to his hotel and Dylan and I headed to the Square, which we enjoyed immensely until the skies opened up and dumped the entire Pacific Ocean on our heads. We don't get this kind of rain on Vashon - this was all-out assault. We waited it out in a series of doorways and finally made it back to the room drenched anyway.

Mark and I wanted to show Dylan a litt
le of San Francisco before heading north into wine country for a couple of low-key days, but we had an errand to run first. Mark's laptop cord had bit the dust and we needed another. So, our first destination was the Apple store in the center of downtown SF. Here, it turns out, was my first real chance to kill another human being!

And I came pretty close. Not really the highlight of the trip, but with the high stakes of honking traffic all around us, a giant Apple store that my GPS insisted was right in front of me but I simply could not locate with my eyes, and the nano-second opportunity to leap out of the passenger seat at a red light - I lept. I lept without doing what I always, always, always do - check my mirror for cyclists. Always except this one time, and - Voila!

I shoved my door open at the light and BAM! She must have been going 20 miles an hour when she slammed straight into it. She fell to the sidewalk and I practically fell out of the car onto my hands and knees to beg forgiveness, just a puddle of relief that she was OK enough to leap up onto the curb and start yelling me the riot act.

I just kept nodding and apologizing until the decibel levels came down out of the range where only dogs can hear it properly and eventually, as Mark and Dylan slinked the car slowly out of the intersection, it was just her and me (and a small gathered crowd) and the understanding that I was a class A jerk but with some hint of possibility of joining the human race, so with a final nod and apology, I shakily made my way to the front door of the Apple store that had somehow appeared in my sightline and she climbed back on her bike to triumphant applause from our audience and peddled off.

Hopefully we will never meet again under any circumstance. I suppose I could have performed a more humiliating act in an even more public venue, but how, exactly, escapes me.

My family got the hint immediately upon my ret
urn to the car that this was not an incident open for either humor or advice.

And, I did my best to enjoy the scenes of the great San Fran until we tore ourselves away and headed to Sonoma County.

Ah, Sonoma - if ever the
re was a place to help you forget you'd almost broken somebody's neck, it's Sonoma County, California. We'd reserved a room in tiny Guernsville, a real jewel that's sort of on the edge of the actual wine country, a short drive from the action, but less expensive and heavily forested. I explored a little of the area while Dylan rested in the suite and Mark stopped off at a local doc to have something checked out. We spent the next day leisurely meandering through the countryside, with a spectacle of a lunch at the over the top Coppola Winery.


I'm not norma
lly a Disneyesque type of gal, but I could not help being impressed with just about every aspect of this place. The grounds are Hard Rock Cafe meets Mondavi, complete with bruisers who greet you at the door and the desk from The Godfather next to Francis's trophy case filled with gleaming Oscars.

All in all, it was a great way to round out our trip. We headed out the next day to drive along Highway 1 - something I've wanted to do all my life - lunching in lovely Mendocino, a town very proud of its water towers, driving through Redwoods National Park, and finally crawling into Crescent City.

One more long day of highway miles and we were home sweet home - what a fabulous tour of The American West!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Road Trip Part IV: Yosemite - the awesome and the annoying

We escaped Nevada, crossing into California at Reno, and then winding through a tiny, snow-packed pass on our way to the western entrance of Yosemite, which Mark and I agreed was probably the most beautiful stretch of road either of us had ever seen, and then proceeded to have our one and only bitter disagreement of the trip. Which is absolutely the way I would recommend enjoying the most beautiful stretch of road you've ever seen.

First lesson: a trip to Yosemite is a commitment, no matter where you are starting out from. There are no major highways anywhere close to the park and the surrounding area is hilly and twisted, so travel is slow at best and at times, tortuous.

And although the park is vast, the area most people visit - the valley floor - is constricted and filled with other people. So a 1-nighter is not really the way to see Yosemite.

Having said that, however, John Muir's lifelong love is nothing if not majestic and breathtaking. We finally left the entrance behind and made our way down to the valley floor around 7:30PM. The light played on El Capitan and the gushing waterfalls everywhere.

Like the other places we'd visited, Yosemite is experiencing an abundance of moisture so the main waterfalls were twice their normal size and spontaneous waterfalls had sprouted up all over.

We hit Camp Curry, a well-run National Park machine, only to discover at 8:30PM that all the food we'd packed in our cooler and bags would earn us a $5000 fine if left in our car.

Bears. Bears bears bears. If there's a theme to Yosemite it's bears and fines. Staying at Yosemite is a little like joining the army, with frequent and helpful reminders of the severe penalties for going AWOL.

So, before collapsing into our wall tent after 13 hours of driving, or eating dinner, or throwing back a shot of tequila, we had to pack up two weeks' worth of provisions and lug it to the Bear Box outside our tent. To say that Mom was a little crabby at this point would be somewhat of a wee understatement.

But the next day was magic. We all slept great, got up early, and headed out to the trail. After an awesome hike and about 1000 photos, we explored the Valley Floor by shuttle, taking our time and stopping off in lots of places and finally re-packing up the car to head out for San Francisco in late afternoon.

With only 4 hours of driving scheduled, we settled in and enjoyed the twisting, turning 2-lane blacktop through beautiful, sun-drenched country an
d even found Mark Twain's mostly-overlooked cabin. It's a humble little thing, sitting at the end of long shared driveway with some houses, but it's where Twain lived when his writing finally caught folks' attention - with a little frog story he heard down at the local tavern.

And then it was westward ho! once more, for a night in San Francisco and a good-bye to our Aussie cousin.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

We interrupt this travelogue with a brief diversion into yummy

Another fun pizza combination to add to your next Friday night ritual or casual sup with pals:

Crispy egglplant and proscuitto pizza

We started with a "base" pizza of tomato/basil sauce and cheese, a new one from Costco that is very clean and has a wonderful breadcrumb crust.

We sliced the eggplant very thin, dredged it in flour and shook off the excess, then pan-fried until crispy. Let the eggplant drain on paper towels and then laid it on the pizza, tore paper thin slices of prosciutto and placed them on top. Baked it on a pizza stone in a 500' oven for about 12 minutes, then finished with a little grated parmesan and some chopped green onion.

Delicious and different! And oh so easy ~

Road Trip, Part III - the west under water

Our trip focused on the American west's iconic national parks, and while Utah certainly boasts some beauties, they were too far south for this adventure. We packed up our gear on the last day at our Jackson Village ski resort hostel and trotted down to say good-bye to our gracious host. Only to discover that the road west out of town, shut over two weeks earlier due to a massive slide, had not opened on schedule.

We blinked, blank-faced, as he pulled out his iPad and started giving us our options. They all involved near-blizzard conditions and mandatory chains. We thanked him and sighed before heading out to rearrange the car and pull the chains to where they would be easily accessed.

But, before embarking on the dreaded climb ov
er the pass, we headed into town for a quick breakfast snack and on a whim decided to check the state hiway's website - miracle of miracles, the road had finally been re-opened, just 2 hours earlier.

We flew out of Wyoming across the southwest corner of Idaho and into the eastern farmland of Utah. Like Montana and Wyoming before them, these states had river and lakes looking ready to crest everywhere we looked. Many floodplains were already flooded and we knew from talking to folks in Jackson, where the unseasonably cold, snowy spring was about to break into 80' weather days after we left, that managing unprecedented quantities of water was the topic on everyone's lips. Everywhere we stopped, the conversation centered on the level of the dams, the swelling of the rivers. Moving people and livestock and hoping for the best.

We were looking forward to our second exciting food stop of the trip (the first, 2nd Street Bistro in Livingston, having fallen through with us arriving on a Monday, when they're closed) - Utah State University's famous Aggie Ice Cream shop, only to realize when we were mere miles from the school that it was Sunday and this being Utah, ice cream was unlikely to be available commercially.

Dejected, we gassed up and whipped through Salt Lake Cit
y to emerge on its western edge to seemingly endless water. Water so deep and widespread our little ribbon of highway seemed to be the only thing left unsubmerged and that just barely.

Even the median between the freeway's two directions seemed a long, straight navigable river.

A lot of very little for a very long time, and at last we hit our night's goal. Elko, Nevada. I'll just say...Nevada was everything I expected. And leave it at that.

After checking in at the Thunderbird Motel, I headed over to Albertson's for dinner stuff. Had to txt Mark and let him know that the one-armed bandits in the grocery store had me in their clutches and I'd be pulling a line of credit out of the house before heading back with a loaf of bread.

But, by making it to Elko, we'd chewed up a signficant part of Nevada, after exiting out of Wyoming, cutting across Idaho, and dissecting Utah all in a single day. We slept soundly and headed to California and John Muir's Yosemite the next morning.

Part IV: Yosemite - how badly do you want to see it? And San Francisco!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Road Trip, Part II - Wyoming beyond Yellowstone

My only other exposure to Wyoming was driving the largest UHaul made, with a car attached to the back, filled with my mother's belongings when I flew down to New Mexico 5 years ago and moved her up to Vashon. That Wyoming, the Wyoming found along I-25, the Wyoming where the wind howls incessantly and one is forced to wonder Where Art Thou, Wind Turbines? The Wyoming of miles and miles of absolute nothingness and white knuckle grips on a seemingly possessed steering wheel - and this coming from a native New Mexican, so I can throw that stone. That Wyoming I can live the rest of my life without seeing again.

This was not that Wyoming.

Western Wyoming is a different animal entirely. Thank goodness. It greeted us savagely - the photo above features Mark taking a photo of me taking a photo of him taking a photo in the snowstorm that marked our journey from Old Faithful into Grand Teton territory. Once Mark gets the camera bug, mere blizzard conditions are no match for his determination.

A couple hours later, this was all of the Tetons that greeted us. Our Aussie companion, conveniently named Jackson, dutifully captured the majestic range's feet.

But we had fun that night any
way. Here's Jackson having pizza and Coke in Jackson, and wearing some of Dylan's napkin handiwork.

We fell in love with Jackson Hole - the whole thing. Jackson the To
wn, Jackson Village the ski resort we were staying in, at a dirt cheap hostel, the amazing beauty everywhere, and the wildlife.

From sitting in a bear's lap.

To enjoying happy hour while a stuffed moose shed
s on your appetizers.

To coming home after a day of exploring
only to find a fox (a FOX!) in the parking lot.

We were instructed to go see
Wyoming's most photograhed barn, which lies in front of the Grand Tetons and miraculously on the day we ventured off with our cameras, the clouds parted and we were treated to a most iconic vista.

I spent about 20 minutes shooting pix of this beautiful old barn with the mountains behind it until I realized that the REAL beautiful old barn with the mountains behind it was across the road.

Jackson is simply amazing. You can see why all t
he celebs have their 2nd homes here. I didn't want to leave. I've never been anywhere where the ski resort is 12 miles straight off the town - no altitude climb required. We took North America's longest tram up to the top of the ski slopes for a good look around.

And every night you get to watch a real live old west shoot out in the town square!

Next up, Part III - Utah under water and slot machines in Albertsons!