Hum...raining again outside. Cold, wind, rain...great combination, eh? Yesterday was a full frenzied day. Today was slated to be the same but the weather will slow us down somewhat. Tomorrow, we're hoping to leave early--maybe as early as 9 but no later than 11. Since we have Site #27 reserved @ Baumgartner, there's no hurry to get there. As long as we arrive in time to set up before dusk, all's OK. However, we want to explore the Little Wood River north of Carey so that's why we're wanting to leave early. I think the Little Wood drains out of the Pioneer Mtn. Range. Right now the Pioneers are utterly and wildly beautiful with all the late season snow draped on their rugged shoulders. They undoubtedly rec'd some more snow last night. Banner Summit SNOTEL got six inches! Burrr.
We made some real good strides in our trip prep yesterday. Art's Muffler donated their time to bend my rebars. Those guys are awesome. They are so Old School. They're covered with grime and caked grease. They look like something out of a 1950's faded photo. They were busier than one-armed paper hangers yesterday. Here I come walking in with two 40 inch pieces of rebar. They look at me like I'm a Space Alien. Rebar? In a muffler shop? So, I ask them if they've ever tried to maintain a campfire with chopsticks.
Huh? So, I reach down with the rebar and act like I am trying to mess with an imaginary campfire on their floor. See, I say, I can't lift a log out of the fire with these steel chopsticks. Then they get it and we make a plan to bend a little 2 inch piece of the rebar at a 90 degree angle to give me some leverage. One of them goes in the backshop and fires up a torch and heats the rebar red hot and, poof, my chopsticks are now feng shui. I ask them how much I owe them and Stan sez, "A million dollars." The other one hands me the rebar chopsticks and says, "Have a great weekend!" No charge. Those guys are awesome. They have my muffler business for this life and as many lives as I will ever need mufflers.
Susun got a shorty wet suit, too, yesterday. Now we have matching wet suits. Big deal, huh? If you looked out the window at this very moment, the thought of paddling a kayak would be the farther possible thing from your mind. But we're optimists. We're certain the sun will shine. It's not a matter of "if," simply "when."
I spent a LOT of time messing with dutch ovens yesterday--probably far too much time. Maybe it was a form of stealth procrastination. It certainly looked like I was busy but was I really getting anything done? Not hardly. Anyway, at the end of the day, I put the finishing touches on a whole brand new and improved dutch oven rig. Dutch ovens are high maintenance items. They won't do a single THING for you unless you coax them to. The "coaxing" part of it all is pretty highly intricate. You have to mess with live coals and somehow fit some food into a big old cast iron pot and actually believe you're going to get something edible back out of that same pot, even though it's covered with filthy, HOT ash and coals and so forth. It's an act of faith.
Perhaps the most fun I had yesterday was firing up the jet engine weed torch. It's the one that sounds like a fighter jet taking off. Man, it makes a real racket! Heads turn. Drivers do doubletakes. It's so loud I really should be wearing ear protection. Face and hand protection is a must. Anyway, I prepped a new charcoal pan for the dutch ovens. Then I decided to burn off the paraffin on a large dutch oven that's been sitting unloved for two years in my cook shack. Most cheap dutch ovens are made in India. Before they ship them, they spray a heavy coating of paraffin all over the naked cast iron. The paraffin oils seep down in the porous iron. It's VERY difficult to remove this stuff. No way would you EVER do it inside your house as the place would stink to high heaven forever afterwards. Old Timers usually just build a big fire and throw in the oven and let the crud cook off. We can't do that here in the city. Hence, I used the weed burner torch out in the alley to heat the oven red hot and smoke off all that oil-based paraffin. You should have seen that pot and lid smoke and then finally begin to glisten and glow. When it got really, really hot it actually turned a metallic shade of blue. It was beautiful, at least if you love dutch ovens as we do.
Well, after totally torching the oven, I decided to set about converting it to a bake oven. 99% of dutch oven users fill their cast iron pots full of food. Well, we're just a couple now and we don't have an army to feed. So filling a large 8 quart oven full of food is ridiculous. It would take us days (maybe even weeks) to eat a big pot full of food. However, we love to cook with dutch ovens. So what to do with the big ones we own?
Yesterday's inspiration was to convert at least one of them to an kind of traditional oven. Here's how you do it. First, you need a riser and a flame diffuser. A riser is one of those little grates that people use as a trivet to put a hot skillet on a counter top. Then I dug out an antique flame tender that was made probably in the 1930's or 1940's. We bought it at an antique shop a long time ago. The flame tender goes on the bottom of the cast iron oven. The riser fits over the flame tender with perhaps a quarter inch air gap between the two. Then I began looking for bakeware to fit atop this duo. I found one Pyrex bake dish that would fit but I fear taking glass on a camping trip. The ground is like a magnet to glass. Glass will always go to ground and shatter in a million pieces.
So I went off to the store and luckily bakeware was 50% off. Maybe Memorial is a baking holiday and I didn't know it. Anyway, I bought this really neat non-stick 8x8 bake pan that fits perfectly inside the dutch oven atop the flame tender and riser with plenty of room to spare below the lid. Ah, ha! Now we are in business once again. There's all sorts of stuff we can bake in that 8x8 pan. The amount of food baked will be just about right for the two of us while providing near perfect serving sizes as breakfast leftovers.
Then, naturally, I had to make a custom carrying box for all of the above. Also bought 40 pounds of briquettes. Voila, it's done and ready to roll out on our next trip. We already have some recipes in mind--ground turkey meatloaf; scalloped potatoes and ham; baked salmon casserole; and jalapeno cheese cornbread. Yippie, skippee!
One of these days, we're gonna learn how to camp. I promise.