IMG_6187

wild leek pancakes

IMG_6191IMG_6188

This past weekend took us to Vermont. We joined friends of mine from grad school to ride the Muddy Onion Spring Classic¬†around Montpelier – 35 miles of gravel roads, scenic Vermont vistas, and a halfway fuel stop stocked with a cooler of PBR, chocolate covered bacon, and maple syrup shots. It was my second bike ride of the season, as things have only recently been thawing out and drying up where we live. I couldn’t stop proclaiming afterward that it was the most fun ride I’ve ever done, which is saying quite a lot given that I’m normally averse to hill climbing.

But it was just so beautiful out. The weather was perfect; it started off cool, but clouds gave way to sun partway through the day. I got to try out my bike with its new triple crankset setup, which likely explains why I enjoyed the climbs so much. Hill climbs are so much easier when you can stay seated, without effort, on even the steepest pitches. The early spring made for dry roads, which was a plus. 35 miles of sloggy muddy roads would have definitely been too much for me so early in the season, so I appreciated that. All in all, another ace weekend in Vermont.

Along the ride, I kept noticing wild leeks, or ramps, all over the place. In riparian zones near streams. In a bowl-shaped valley sheltered from prevailing winds. Underneath a maze of tap lines in a maple syrup sugarbush. And everywhere I looked, there were No Trespassing signs posted, until I finally found a small pocket growing within the right-of-way of the road. I snagged one and made quick work of it.

IMG_6189IMG_6186IMG_6195IMG_6182

It’s been something like seven years since I last picked ramps. They don’t grow up where I live in Maine, and I don’t think they’ve had them at my grocery store during that time either.

But if you know me, you know that I love free food. Free food sitting in the woods, waiting to be happened upon by me, my grubby hands, and a plastic bag. It’s a siren song I can’t resist. And resistance is futile when your friends know of a place just up the road from their home that has all the ramps you can dream of.

Since it’s still early in the season, the bulbs haven’t yet developed fully, but that’s no reason not to do a little foraging. After all, it’s been seven years since my last opportunity. So we did a little pickin’ and grinnin’.IMG_6183
IMG_6193IMG_6190IMG_6194IMG_6181

Joe and Jane kept a handful of our bounty, but graciously allowed us to bring the rest home. They can go back for more whenever they wish. A handful goes a long way with these little Alliums, they are awfully garlicky and oniony, and I love them. I cooked with ramps last night, and I can still smell them on my hands today.

And now that I think of it, I kind of prefer ramps¬†in this early phase before they develop fully, because they’re a bit more mild. I remember popping a few late season some years back, and getting heartburn on the spot because they were so strong.

I chose to make Wild Leek Pancakes with mine, in homage to the scallion pancakes that we find on occasional dim sum menus, and can’t get enough of. This homemade version isn’t quite the restaurant quality I remember, but it was just as delicious, and just a little bit different. Perhaps if I had chopped the ramps finer, I could have rolled the pancakes out thinner, and achieved the ultra thin pancake I was aiming for. Oh well, laziness always wins.DSC06608DSC06615DSC06625

Wild Leek Pancakes (because Ramps Cakes sounds weird)
Recipe for Scallion Pancakes from J. Kenji López-Alt, with ramps used in place of scallions

Pancake Ingredients:
2 c. all purpose flour, plus more for kneading and dusting
1 c. boiling water
1/4 c. toasted sesame seed oil
2 c. wild leeks/ramps, sliced thin (I used the white parts, and an inch or so of the greens)

1/4 c. or more vegetable oil
Kosher salt

Dipping Sauce Ingredients:
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp wild leeks/ramps, sliced thin
1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger (or even a little more)
2 tsp sugar

Directions:

Combine all sauce ingredients and set aside at room temp.

Put flour in the bowl of a food processor. With processor turned on, use feed tube to drizzle in 3/4 of the cup of boiling water. Process 15 seconds. If dough has not come together, drizzle additional water in, one tablespoon at a time, until the dough has just come together.

Transfer dough to floured countertop, and knead for 1-2 minutes until dough turns smooth. Transfer to a bowl, and cover with a damp towel. Set aside to rest for 30 minutes at room temp, or overnight in the fridge.

Divide dough into four equal pieces. On a lightly floured surface, roll the first ball of dough out into an 8″ round. Brush a thin layer of sesame oil over the top of the disk with a pastry brush. Roll disk up jelly roll style, then “twist roll into a tight spiral, tucking the end underneath.” This is a bit difficult to do, but do what you can to tuck the ends in and bring the dough back to a round¬†shape, and then press dough down to keep the ends from separating. Flatten dough by hand, then re-roll to an 8″ round. Brush a second layer of sesame oil onto the rolled out dough, then sprinkle with 1/2 cup of ramps. Press ramps lightly into the dough. Again roll disk up like a jelly roll, twisting and flattening gently. Being careful to avoid ramp rupture, re-re-roll dough into a 7″ round.

Set prepared pancake aside on a lightly floured surface. Repeat prep steps with remaining three balls of dough.

Heat oil in a small nonstick or cast iron pan over medium high heat. Kenji recommends an 8″ pan; I don’t have one that small, so I added extra oil to my pan. When oil is shimmering, slide one pancake into the pan. Cook until underside is an even golden brown, 2¬†minutes or so. Flip pancake, and continue cooking until second side is also an even golden brown, 2¬†minutes longer. Remove pancake from pan and place on paper towel-lined plate. Season with salt. Repeat with remaining pancakes.

Serve warm with dipping sauce.

IMG_6184

Happy as a ramp in a quality northern hardwoods forest

DSC06605

prepping for schlepping on our six-month bike trip: clothes

Our upcoming European bike packing trip has been a long time in the making. So long that I’ve been curating a collection of merino wool clothing specifically for the trip for a few years now. These threads don’t come cheap, but I believe that they’ll be worthwhile when I’m on day four of wearing the same pair of underwear, sweating under that endless summer sun in somewhere Norway, or feeling decidedly sticky as I pedal through the chestnut fields of Portugal.

Let’s start with the clothes I plan to take on this trip.

DSC06572

I’ll preface a more detailed survey of my threads with this:

  1. Last time I traveled long-term, in 2007, I took the well-meaning advice of student travel liaisons a bit much to heart when they recommended that those studying abroad ‘travel light.’ I ended up bringing five shirts, two pairs of pants, and three pairs of shoes with me. And one pair of shoes turned out to be too small. I’m a wandering soul both internally¬†and in time and space¬†(which is also just mentally though maybe?), and I quickly became bored out of my mind having limited myself to so few options. I knew I wanted a few more choices this time around.
  2. I have a lot of outdoor clothing already, but the majority of it is bulky wool sweaters and thick heavy work pants. Not things to take on a lightweight bike trip.
  3. This trip is technically my honeymoon. I’d like to at least have the option to look nice every once in a while.

So, what am I bringing?

Bike jerseys (2, both wool)
Hybrid bike jersey/shirt (1, has a zippered pocket in the rear)
Off-the-bike shirts (2, of which one is wool, the other is 3/4 sleeve)
Tank tops (3, all are wool)
Padded bike shorts (2 pair, 1 being wool, the other being liner shorts)
Bike outer shorts (1)
Cycling leggings (1)
Off-the-bike shorts (1)
Stretchy on/off-the-bike pants (1)
Long-sleeved hoodies (2, one is wool, the other polyester flannel)
Long underwear (1 pair, wool)
Skirt (1, wool)
Underwear (5, three are wool – merino doesn’t grow on trees, folks)
Sports bras (3, two are wool)
Socks (5, all wool; two are heavier weight)
Swimsuit (1)
Rain jacket (1)
Wind jacket (1)
Insulated jacket (1)

I’d like to also bring a pair of jeans, and perhaps a dress as well, but I’ll wait until I’ve loaded up everything to see how much room I have left. All of the aforementioned takes up surprisingly little space.

Processed with VSCO with f2 presetDSC06599

I did a lengthy bit of research on currently-available Merino wool products before I dove in to make¬†any purchases. I decided to focus on Ibex Outdoor Clothing’s wool offerings due to their cycling-specific apparel, their general stylishness, and the fact that every Ibex item I’ve bought has been constructed in the USA or Canada.

Most of what you see above was bought at sale price, except for the cycling shorts. I wore these shorts all of last season, and I have nothing but praise for them. They’re made with a wool blend, with just the right amount of elastic stretch. The chamois pad in the shorts is made of wool and polyester. I can wear them for days on end and they don’t get disgusting. Which is a plus.

The Hooded Indie sweatshirt is a comfortable companion as well. Mine took a beating the week after I received it last year, when I fell while biking too fast coming down the Cadillac Mountain Road in Acadia National Park. After skidding across the road twenty feet or so, the material had developed a few large holes, but those should be mendable enough to avoid disdainful stares from chic Frenchies.

Processed with VSCO with hb2 presetDSC06583Processed with VSCO with hb2 preset

After gaining confidence snagging sweet Ibex swag, I became an internet predator on Steep & Cheap, searching voraciously for any and every deal on Giro bike apparel. All ten pieces of Giro clothing shown above came from the website at a ridiculously low price РI think I only spent above $30 on one item (one of the merino wool cycling jerseys), and most came in at $15-20.

The retail cost of new Giro¬†leggings alone is $100; I paid merely $22. I didn’t feel too bad grabbing an extra two or three shirts when they were quality, cycling-specifc, and under 20 bucks each.

It proved to be worth waiting, biding my time to seek out deals. Patience seems to be the key with sites such as Steep & Cheap, since everything seems to go on super clearance every once in a while.

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

This Mountain Hardware flannel is something that I treated myself to. I saw it on Steep & Cheap and knew immediately that it would up the cozy ante for my entire trip. But I watched as it appeared and disappeared over the next few months, since it’s $50 price tag was way over what I tended to allow myself per item of clothing.

But I went for it, and holy cow do I love it. It’s the coziest thing I’ve worn in a long time.

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

Out of all this greatness, though,¬†I might be most excited for my upside-down cross socks, also made of wool. Billed by the seller as being “good for both casual rides to Hell, as well as the occasional wedding,” these babies are right up my dark, soulless alley.

Next time, I’ll show you all the other shit I’m bringing! Accessories galore.

Processed with VSCOcam with hb2 preset

april

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset
The loggers have gone home. There is mud, but there is also knee deep snow in the woods. There is the occasional burst of sunshine. Life in the North Maine Woods in the middle of April is for the most part a desolate affair.

I’m overeager. I see the photos that friends in other parts of the country post, and I see spring creeping north. Buds on the trees in Georgia are first on the list. Next it’s cherry blossoms in DC, and new growth in NYC. I do myself the disservice of traveling down to Connecticut, across to Illinois and back, and see forsythia and daffodils in bloom, green grass, a tick, a mosquito? And then it’s back to this place. I pay too much attention to the weather. But mine is a profession that is dependent on the weather, and we talk about it and over-analyze it every day of our lives, as if it is our chief interest. This is mud season, we have plenty of time to talk.
IMG_5809IMG_5813Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset

Mostly though, I’m overeager because I want to get out into the woods and explore. I’ve made it my mission to discover as many old logging camps as I can. On the land that I manage, there are dozens and dozens to be found. So far, I’ve found three camps, dating back to the 1920s and 1930s; I have at least five more that I’d like to visit and try to find this spring. A few old maps I’ve found are helpful in navigating to these camps, but are also just inaccurate enough to make the search eventful and uncertain.

But it’s going to be weeks still before there is a diminished enough snow pack to make this endeavor a profitable one. And so I wait, and grow grouchier by the day.
IMG_5819IMG_5811IMG_5815IMG_5817

Last week was the perfect weather for ice skating. It was dreamy out on the ice, and things only got more magical when at dusk, I spotted an otter loping along and periodically sliding on its belly. There is no way that otters aren’t one of my spirit animals.

This week, there’s been a lot of rain and warmer temperatures. The ice is turning mealy. Channels are running across the lake, small rivulets and large swaths are bisecting each other, with gusts of wind whipping these periodic stretches of water into a frenzy. I’m guessing that ice out on the lake will happen in two weeks’ time. I’d like it to be sooner, but last year it was around the first of May. This is our sixth month of Ice Season. It’s all too much winter for me.

And so we’re leaving. It’s been over four years since we moved up to this beautiful strange place in the middle of nowhere, and we’re long overdue for a change. This June, we are packing up our bicycles, taking to the skies, and bikepacking across Europe for as long as our funds allow. And I will be here every step of the way, telling you about it in excruciating thoughtful detail.

Up first will be what we plan to take with us, our bikes, and our gear. If you play your cards right, you may even get to hear from the man himself, bike aficionado and my stud of a husband, Eli Shank. That way I can focus on the important stuff (like baguettes and pierogi and weißbier, oh my!), and Eli can teach you everything I wish I could remember about gearing ratios and wheel bearing adjustments.
IMG_5807Processed with VSCOcam with hb2 preset