Sunday, July 19, 2009

1/2 Lamb. Roasted. In a box.

I start work as a Volunteer In Service To America (AmeriCorps VISTA) tomorrow. I don't have an apartment to move in to until August 1, and am luckily house sitting for strangers for the next two weeks. In the meantime we have been staying with Nic's mother and step-father, they live pretty much in the middle of nowhere in eastern Montana (about 7 miles down a dirt road on about 700 acres). Valley Creek Ranch has a growing Icelandic sheep operation (see sheep photo in previous post). The breed has tasty meat as well as excellent wool. This post will focus on the former attribute of the sheep.
I probably don't have as much to say about meat as Nic does. His constant companion (besides me) is a book entitled The River Cottage MEAT Book- although everything besides MEAT is written in a smaller and less contrasting font so that if you didn't take a close look you would think the book was titled simply, MEAT. While I haven't read much of it myself, I have been shown images of everything from a photo-essay of a cow being slaughtered to a gelatinous meat dish to a tub full of salted trotters, tail and snout. There are other images (and recipes) of better cuts of meat like chops and roasts as well as essays about the ethical treatment of animals, the virtues of cheap cuts of meat as well as large sections devoted to pork, beef and other game. Needless to say, the book has had an influence on how and what kind of meat we consume.

Which brings me to our 1/2 lamb roast that we had earlier this week. Some of the sheep on the ranch have become renegades- jumping through barbed wire fences and hiding in the neighboring cliffs. One of the recaptured lambs was taken to the local meat locker and made an example of what happens to naughty sheep.

We had one half of the lamb for supper. Since a half of a lamb is still a large amount of meat (13 pounds) Becky and Mike invited some friends over. Nic used a recipe adapted from the River Cottage MEAT Book- stuffing garlic, anchovies and rosemary into knife slits all over the lamb. The lamb was then rubbed with the oil from the anchovies. Anchovies have enough salt to make additional salt unnecessary while giving an added dimension to lamb without being fishy.

The lamb was then placed in 'La Caja China'- which is Spanish for 'The Chinese Box'... Think on that for a moment. La Caja is a large aluminum box in which the prepared meat is placed. A lid is placed on the box and then covered with hot briquets- making La Caja a different but delicious concept.
After roasting for about 2 hours, the meat was done- a beautiful golden outside and juicy interior.

The meal was served with coleslaw, grilled potatoes and bread. Even with 8 hungry guests, leftovers ensued, as well as a nap.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Observations about Montana.

Montana has wheat fields.

Montana has moose (though this photo was taken in Wyoming in the Bighorn Mountains).

Montana has Icelandic sheep (still somewhat goat-like and don't herd).

Montana has strange and beautiful wildflowers (photo also taken in Wyoming- this statement is more of an assumption).

Montana has many (lots of) mountain ranges.

I have learned several of these ranges in my drives from Park City to Bozeman: The Crazy Mountains, The Beartooth mountains, The Absoarka Mountains. It is strange to me that the Rocky Mountains are so huge and vast that smaller ranges have their own names. In Oregon, The Coast Range, and The Cascades are the name of the mountains that run from The Independent State of Jefferson past the Columbia River.

Montana also has crazy weather.

It's a good thing that the sky here is so huge and that you can see these behemoth storms coming your way. They violently drop rain (or hail) a tablespoon at a time and then move on in a matter of minutes- much unlike the blanket of gray and day-long drizzle in Oregon.

I believe that geography and weather in Montana are generally much more dramatic.

I believe that Montana is beautiful.

So ends my initial Montana observations.

A quick self-update for those who are curious: An apartment has been found- a darling basement apartment (amazingly well-lit). However, we cannot move in until August first. I was sworn in as a federal employee (volunteer) yesterday by the Lutinenant Govenor of Montana. Guess who starts her job on Monday? Good thing Craigslist works in Montana too (even though there is only one site for all of Montana to post things), and I will be housesitting for strangers until August. Things are working out pretty well, if I do say so myself.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Finally- Socks!

The socks that should have taken a month... took 6.
Nic's mother is quite the fiber enthusiast, she spins, weaves, knits and felts. I had not been in Montana for a week this time around when she got me started on a lace shawl (pics to come once I have made a little more progress).

Last summer when I visited she talked me into me to quit knitting scarves and try following a pattern. Since then I have attempted a pair of socks, at last deciding I didn't like the yarn I was knitting with, and decided that if it's not wool, I should probably not be using it.

Anyway, these socks have been a long time coming. I have yet been able to have more than one knitting project at one time- a good thing because it prevents me from making yarn purchases that I don't otherwise have a plan for. It is a bad thing because, as this sock debacle is an illustration of- I can get tired of knitting one project and put it down for 4 months.

Let's hope that I can knit some mittens by the time winter arrives, otherwise, it won't make much sense to have a finished pair next summer. Now that I remember how great it feels to finish things, I hope I can turn out several more knitted goods by the end of the year.